Some of my Favorite Books

Is Christmas about Choices?

Daily Message:

The Choice of Christmas

Did you know Christmas is about choices?

No, I don't mean "What will I get Uncle Gary and Aunt Melody?" kind of choices. Or, even the "How much do we spend on the kids?" kind of choices. Not the "Did I wear this dress at last year's Christmas party?" or the "Group Gifting vs. Personal Gifting" kinds of choices, either.

I'm talking about the choices that led to the event we celebrate during the Christmas season.

Once Upon a Time in a Far Away Land...

Once upon a time in a far, far, really far away land God decided to create something. Why He chose when He chose to do this miraculous thing, we don't know. Maybe He was all caught up on His reading.... Or, maybe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were sitting around chatting and one of them said, "What do you think about building a world."

And so, God chose to create the world...and in that world, God chose to create a man. In time, God chose to create a woman from the man (apparently the man was looking a little lost and lonely there and God thought, "I'll create a being who can find her way around any mall...and will be sure to be entertaining, too!).

God created man and woman...and placed them in a beautiful garden home He'd prepared just for them. All He required of them was to keep their little paws off one measly little tree: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Suddenly a slippery, slimy ole snake crawled into the scene and tempted the woman.

"Did God really say you can't eat of any tree in the Garden?" he asked her.*

Eve replied, "Oh, no...we can eat from any tree...just not that tree. If we eat of it, we will die."

The snake said, "Pfffft. You won't die, silly woman. In fact, I have the inside skinny that if you do eat of it, you'll be more like God than before."

Now, the woman had a choice. And she chose to listen to the stinky snake and to disobey God.

The Scriptures say in Genesis 3:6 that Adam was with her, so apparently he chose not to try to stop this travesty. Eve ate and then gave some of the fruit of the tree to her husband and he chose to disobey God as well.

Just Wait Until Your Father Comes Home!

Do you remember your mother saying those words? And you were thinking, "Can't we just keep this between us?"

Do you wonder if Adam and Eve thought the same? "Okay," Adam might have said to hs wife. "I see that you're naked there...and you see that I'm naked you think God will notice that we've noticed?"

God noticed. In the cool of the day, He came down (Oh, the suffering our first parents must have endured!) and pronounced a curse on all three of the story's culprits.

But, in the middle of the discipline, God chose to bless the man and woman as preparing a way by which all mankind could find restoration with Himself.

To the serpent He said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

This was the first prophecy of the coming Messiah.

Fast-Forward the Story

Thousands of years went by. The people of God had been "on again, off again" in their walk with El Shaddai, God Almighty. They were now political "prisoners" of the Roman Empire.

The year was about 4 BC.

A young Jewess, probably no more than twelve or thirteen years of age, was engaged to be married to a Jewish carpenter named Joseph. She had chosen a life of being a wife...and, one day, a mother.

According to tradition, one morning as Mary went to the only well in the town of

Nazareth where she lived with her family, an angel came to her and said, "You are the favored one...God is with you."

Now, Mary could have chosen to run (I know I might have...), but instead she began to converse with the angel.

"Don't be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

God had chosen to send His Son in the form of a tiny baby boy, born to a girl and her husband in a town called Bethlehem, where they'd gone for a census taken by the Roman authorities.

What a glorious moment that must have been! Angels singing in the sky, "Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace to men on whom His favor rests." **

God's choice to love His children more than we can possibly comprehend had now revealed itself in the form of a child.

A Deeper Choice

Thirty-three years went by. The baby boy had grown to be a man...a teacher...a rabbi. Some called Him a troublemaker. Some called Him the miracle maker. Others called Him the long-awaited Messiah.

It was the time of the Passover. Jews from all over were coming toward Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples were no different. They'd followed this path for as long as they could remember. The twelve with Jesus were surely exuberant. It would be a good time...a joyous time...a time of remembering.

But, for Jesus, the reflection was different. A new choice was to be made. The choice to lay down His life as a a bridge by which men could cross over and reach the heart of God.

At times it must have felt as though His feet were weighed down with one of the large, jagged stones along the highway. His heart tightened in His chest. He smiled at those around Him...but at times, it must have been forced.

For days, He purposefully put Himself in the way of those He knew would turn on Him...try Him...convict Him...and, in the end, crucify Him. Day after day of that week He chose to push the envelope a bit harder than the day before.

One night, He chose to kneel in a garden...a garden called Gethsemane. He prayed to His Father...and He waited...waited for the sound of soldier's footsteps and the command of their voices. Waited for the dry touch of a traitor's kiss. The following day, He chose to stretch out His arms as He hung high above His beloved city...and die. Scriptures tell us He could have called an army of angels to come and rescue Him...but He chose to go it alone.

My Choice/Your Choice

The grave could not contain Him! He chose to rise again! He chose to spend more time with His beloved. He chose to send His Holy Spirit to guide us and protect us until that day when the Father chooses that the Son should come again for His bride.

So, now the choice is up to me...and you.

If so, how will you celebrate the season we have set aside to remember His birth? Will you fret and worry over purchase choices? Parties to attend, dresses to wear, suits to press? Or will you choose to tell your children, your grandchildren, your coworkers, your neighbors...anyone who will listen that the choice is theirs as well.

What choices did you make this year, and what purpose did they serve?

Do You Read The Instructions?

Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.-Psalm 119:6

I heard the story of a woman who bought a DVD player. Only a few days after she made the purchase, she went back to the store to complain to the manager that there was a problem with it and it didn’t run right. After having words, the manager noticed the reoccurring problem and he asked the lady, “Have you read the instruction book yet to find out what it says to do?”

Sheepishly, the woman replied, “No.” She agreed to take the electronic device home and read through the instructions first before replacing it with a new one.

The manager called the woman the next day to ask how the DVD player was working. The woman replied, “It works fine. I went by the book instead of trying to fix it myself. It’s running much better now.”

Many Believers have the same trouble in their own lives—they have trouble following by the Book! Half of the books in the Bible can be read in less than 45 minutes, and a lot of them can be read in less than 20 minutes. I’ve heard it said that the Old and New Testaments can be read aloud in around 71 hours.

A believer who seeks direction and guidance in life must look in the instruction book, but unfortunately many forget to. God provided His Word—the instruction manual—for us to live and learn by. As Believers, we must study it, meditate on its principles, and gain from its wisdom. Through whatever situation you may be going through, the Bible is the number one source where you can to receive instruction and direction. If you do this, you can be assured great blessings.


How to Avoid the Pits of Life

"Don't use your mouth to tell lies; don't ever say things that are not true. Keep your eyes focused on what is right, and look straight ahead to what is good." Proverbs 4: 24-25 (NCV)

In a country church, an altar boy was serving the priest at Sunday mass. When he accidentally dropped the cruet of wine, the village priest slapped the boy and shouted, "Leave the church and don't come back!" That boy became Tito, the Communist leader. In the cathedral of a large, inner city church, the altar boy accidentally dropped the cruet of wine. With a twinkle in his eye, the Bishop told the boy, "One day you will be a priest." That boy grew up to be Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

To avoid the pits of life, we must guard our words. Words are power tools! In the right hands and used correctly, words can create. In the wrong hands and used incorrectly, words can destroy. The truth of Proverbs 13:3 is a haunting one, "Whoever controls his mouth protects his own life. Whoever has a big mouth comes to ruin." (GWT) If we do not learn to use and control our tongue, it will use and control us! If God is not in control of our mouths, He is not in control of our lives. James is brutally clear on this point,

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." (James 1:26 NIV) Worthless! I shudder to think that what I count as Kingdom work is, in God's eyes, worthless, erased because of my uncontrolled tongue.

The simple fact is - we will be held accountable for every word we speak. "And I tell you that on the Judgment Day people will be responsible for every careless thing they have said." (Matthew 12:36 NCV) "Careless" literally means "ineffective or useless". The words we speak will either be effective and useful or they will be inadequate and useless. We need to choose the words we speak very carefully - and we need to make sure our words are truthful. Oh, how easy it is to nudge the truth aside to spare our pride or rationalize away some hidden sin. A story is better told with a few "juicy" words added. The phone rings, and we instruct the family to say, "She is not here." How often do we rush to share someone's mistake or failure under the guise of "praying for them"?

Once when I had the stomach flu, I went to the doctor who began his examination by asking me to stick out my tongue. Why? After all, the problem was in my stomach. What did my tongue have to do with my stomach? I had to ask. "Why do doctors always ask patients to stick out their tongues? Are they stalling for time or is there a surplus of tongue depressors?" The doctor laughed, then gave a surprising answer, "The health of the tongue is a strong indicator of the whole body's health!" The same can be said of our spiritual health. If there is something wrong with our words, there is something wrong with our hearts. Matthew puts it this way, "The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart." (Matthew 12:34 NCV) My mother often said, "What's down in the well comes up in the bucket." When God is Lord of the heart, He is Lord of the lips as well. We need to guard our mouths.

To avoid the pits of life, we must also guard our eyes. A study was done of concentration camp survivors to determine the common characteristics of those who did not die from disease or starvation. Victor Frankl was a living answer to that question. Before the Nazis threw him into a concentration camp, he was a successful psychiatrist. After his rescue, Victor Frankl traveled the world, sharing his story. "There is only one reason why I am here today. You kept me alive. Others gave up hope. I dreamed that someday I would be here telling you how I, Victor Frankl, had survived the Nazi concentration camps. I've never been here before, I've never seen any of you before, and I've never given this speech before. But in my dreams, oh, in my dreams, I have stood before you and said these words a thousand times."

Outlook determines outcome. Victor Frankl survived because he chose a right focus, keeping his eyes fixed on what was ahead. Proverbs 4:25 explains, "We need to keep our eyes focused on what is right and look straight ahead to what is good." The picture painted here is one of an "upright" life, a life of "moral purity". We serve a holy God who is very serious about sin.

God is calling us to new spiritual discipline and a holy obedience. Our eyes should constantly be seeking out what is right and good. In reality, the right way is always in front of us - easy to see.

Then why do we find ourselves at the bottom of a pit? We entertain distractions - distractions from the truth. We need to refuse anything or anyone who will keep us from setting our eyes on what is right because sin will either keep us from the truth or the truth will keep us from sin. Run the race for an audience of One. Ignore both the cheering crowds and the critics. Both are distractions from the race and adversaries of God's highest goals.

When it comes to having a right focus, not only do we turn away from what is worthless but we turn to what is worthy. If Satan knows if he can control the mind, then he has won the battle. Who wins that battle is up to us and hinges on the choices that we make.

The battle of the mind is won by controlling and filtering what we set before our eyes. In Psalm 101:3, we find an important key to guarding our mind, "I will set before my eyes no vile thing." (NIV) "Vile" means "evil one or troublemaker". Anything that is not feeding and nourishing the soul is depleting the soul, originates with Satan himself and will bring nothing but trouble. If it is not of God, it will numb you to what is of God. We foolishly believe the lie that we "can handle it".

I live in a small, rural community where cows are familiar neighbors and lost cows a common occurrence. How does a cow get lost? It starts nibbling on a patch of green grass. When it finishes, the cow looks ahead to the next patch of green grass. That patch digested, the cow looks ahead to the next patch of green grass and starts nibbling on that one. Then it nibbles on a patch of grass right next to a hole in the fence. The cow then sees the green grass on the other side of the fence so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next one and the next one. The cow finally looks up to discover it has nibbled itself into being lost. We do the same thing. We bury our heads in the patches of everyday living.

We make a single wrong choice and instead of looking up for forgiveness, instead of looking straight ahead for new direction, we look around for another wrong choice. Soon, we find ourselves at the bottom of a pit wondering how we got there. We must learn to keep our glance on the circumstances and our gaze on Him. To avoid the pits of life, we must guard our eyes and our words.

Don't Let Your Weaknesses Keep You from God

You don't have to be a spiritual giant like a theologian, Bible scholar, or prayer warrior to get close to God. He's willing to meet you wherever are - even smack in the middle of a life filled with flaws and mistakes. Your life may seem ordinary to you, but God's love for you is extraordinary. He loves you deeply, no matter what weaknesses you may have.
Here are some ways you can grow closer to God even if you're fumbling through life:

Focus on what matters most. Don't let your to-do list's nagging voice drown out God's voice calling you to spend time with Him on a regular basis. Make time for relationships - with God, family, and friends - and let things that don't matter as much just slide.

Unplug your life for a while. Take time away from technology that demands you be available to others all the time. Take a break from your cell phone, fax machine, and e-mail and enjoy the peace and quiet. Turn off the television, radio, and computer so you can spend time relaxing and thinking. Celebrate how taking time to reflect helps you hear God's voice better.

Clear out clutter. Get rid of stuff you don't really want or need by giving it away, selling it, or throwing it out. Create extra space in your home and workplace. Lose the attitudes that clutter your mind - all the thoughts that don't line up with God's truth. Remember that with God, all things are possible. Ask Him to give you new, healthy attitudes, like the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control). Stop complaining and ask God to give you the perspective you need to be positive. Clear some space in your schedule so you'll have some free time.

Say "no" sometimes so you can say "yes" at the right times. Have the courage to say "no" to requests for your time and energy that don't fit into your unique mission in life. Ask God to clarify what that mission is for you, so you can evaluate each request against it. Ask yourself, "Is this something only I can do?" If not, and it doesn't line up with your life's mission, let someone else do it. Be willing to say "yes" to the right assignments, but before you do agree to them, take time to pray and check your calendar first.

Sense God's presence all around you. Realize that God is with you everywhere, all the time. Pay attention to His presence wherever you happen to be.

Get adequate sleep. Don't deprive your body of the full amount of sleep it needs each night - usually 7 1/2 to 9 hours for adults. Know that you will function at your best only if you've had enough sleep. Make sleep a high priority.

Pursue inner beauty rather than outer beauty. Don't waste too much time and energy focusing on your physical beauty, which will never last. Instead of visiting a body spa, take a spiritual retreat and let God give you His beauty treatments, such as the dermabrasion of confession and the soaking bath of time in His Word. Know that every encounter with God will change you from the inside out, leaving you truly radiant.

Don't bother to make unrealistic resolutions. Decide to accept God's grace. Give yourself permission to do less and take longer doing it. Eat dessert first. Thank God for the life He has given you, and decide to enjoy it.

Let your God-given conscience wake you up. As you make everyday choices, listen the Spirit's guidance and choose to follow it rather than going your own way. Commit to a life of honesty and integrity.

Embrace God's unconditional love. Ask God to tell you how much He loves you. Then listen as He does, and accept and embrace His unconditional love. View yourself as He does - His beloved child.

Make peace with your past. Understand that your past shouldn't define your present and future. Pursue God's healing for traumatic issues in your past. Know that God cares about you and will give you the freedom you need to live in the present and believe in a brighter future if you take your concerns to Him in prayer.

Remember God's kindness to you, and be kind to others. Recall some of the many ways God has blessed you. As part of your thankfulness to Him, do something kind for other people as often as you can.

Let God teach you to pray. Understand that prayer isn't about who you are; it's about who God is. Just show up for prayer and know that God will meet you there and deepen your prayer life over time.

Be still. Make time in your life for solitude and silence so you can follow God's command to be still and know that He is God. As you rest, listen for His voice.

Realize that every prayer counts. Know that if you're too busy or stressed to pray anything more than, "Help!," God will still listen and answer. Understand that even simple, self-focused prayers reach God's ears. Realize that even prayers uttered on the go still rise to heaven. Don't wait until you have time to pray on your knees; pray as often as you can as you go about your everyday life.

Use music to draw closer to God. Recognize music's awesome power to help you focus on God. Listen to some of your favorite music and let it draw you into worship.

Don't listen to naysayers. Realize that people like teachers, bosses, or family members who predict you'll fail at something may not be correct. Understand that God can take every circumstance in your life and bring something good out of it. Rely only on God's plans for you.

Let God use your disappointments and challenges to shape you. Whenever trials enter your life, press in closer to God's heart and ask Him to help you learn something positive from them.

Trust in God's provision. Understand that God is able, willing, and ready to provide whatever you need, whenever you need it. Pray about whatever specific needs you have - a job, a friend, etc. - and trust Him to answer in wisdom and on time.

Study the Bible. Read and study your Bible often. Write in its margins, underline passages, comment, wonder, question, and exclaim. Know that God will make His Word come alive for you.

Release your worries to God. Don't waste time and energy worrying. Instead, spend time and energy praying about your concerns. Then release them - time and time again, if you need to - and trust that God will answer with much greater power than you have yourself.

Don't let petty concerns weigh you down. Rather than trying to convince God to work on your agenda, take the risk of opening up your whole life to Him and trusting Him to do what He will with it. Know that such a leap of faith will lead to a much greater life for you.

Recognize the location of your true home. Remember that our fallen world is just a temporary home; your eternal home will be in heaven. Know where - and to whom - you belong.

Serve God. Whatever you do, do it for God. Give your best effort to it. Be open to God's leading and willing to serve Him however He calls you.

Keep learning. Decide to be a lifelong learner. Constantly pursue greater spiritual, physical, mental and emotional strength through disciplines like prayer, exercise, and meaningful work.

Money Matters

According to Crown Financial Ministries the number one factor in the breakup of most marriages is financial discord. 85% of marriages that fail do so because of financial problems. And this kind of financial turmoil is no less of a problem in many Christian marriages. Yet in the Bible we have a divinely-inspired and inexhaustible resource on money matters. The Bible mentions money matters some 2,350 times! That's more passages than on heaven and hell combined. So since we have such an amazing divine resource, what lessons can we learn so that money matters will not wipe out our marriages? Let's look at seven divinely ordered truths about money matters:

• Truth #1: God alone is the Owner of everything: He alone is the Possessor of heaven and earth.

To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it (Deut. 10:14).

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Ps. 24:1).

Therefore, the so-called bottom line is this: In the ultimate sense, God owns everything! We own nothing! To assume ownership of anything is to commit the sin of idolatry. We are not owners of anything. We are stewards of everything.

• Truth #2: Since God is the ultimate Owner of everything, He is more than willing and able to meet all of our financial needs.

And my God will fully supply your needs according to His abundant wealth so glorious in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains (Ps. 50:10-11).

God is the ultimate land Owner of the whole earth and His butcher shop is always open for those of us who are hungry and needy. We just need to ask and He will supply. And it's free for the asking!

Truth #3: Therefore, it makes good sense to commit our financial matters to Him and to trust Him to guide our financial decisions as well as to meet all of our basic needs (i.e., food, clothing, and shelter).

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf (Prov. 11:28).

The greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper (Prov. 28:25).

[Jesus said,] "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [our basic needs] will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matt. 6:33-34).

To those who know the trustworthiness of the Lord and His willingness to meet all of our basic needs, an eleventh commandment kicks into play: "Thou shall not sweat it!" Financial worry and anxiety are evidences of unbelief and are sure indicators of potential problems in marital money matters.

• Truth #4: Learning to trust God for all of our basic needs does not come naturally to any of us. It is something into which we must grow.

[Paul said,] "Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need" (Phil. 4:10-13).

From time to time God drops us into no water and no food situations (like the Israelites of old). This is His way of reintroducing us into His school of faith so that we might learn to trust Him with a new and deeper faith. This is the venture of faith into which He calls each and every married couple.

• Truth #5: Further, God's school of faith is designed to teach us two specific lessons about money matters: Wealth and prosperity, at best, are fleeting and temporal. And there are potential dangers inherent in money itself.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle (Prov. 23:4-5).

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Tim. 6:6-10).

• Truth #6: So it is imperative that we guard our hearts from all forms of greed and envy.

A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live (Prov. 15:27).

The greedy man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper (Prov. 28:25).

Jesus replied, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. . . . [It consists in being] rich toward God" (Luke 16:14-15).

• Truth #7: And finally, all of this means that in marital money matters God is calling us to develop generous and giving hearts.

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed (Prov. 11:25).

[Paul reminded them,] I have shown you in all things that by working hard in this way we must help the weak, remembering the words that the Lord Jesus Himself said, "There is more happiness in giving than in receiving" (Acts 20:35).

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God Himself has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we may say with confidence, "The Lord is my Helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Heb. 13:5-6).

"He's Just Not That Into You" -- Postmodern Secular Romance"

Sex and romance remain big issues in popular culture -- and for good reason. In a fallen world, issues of sexuality and romantic love are prime candidates for corruption and confusion. HBO's Emmy-winning Sex and the City may serve as the most potent symbol of the secular distortion of romance and the postmodern confusion of sexuality that is now taken for granted in many sectors of American society.

The latest evidence of this tragic confusion is found in the book He's Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys -- the best-selling nonfiction book according to recent reports. Written by two authors connected with Sex and the City, the book is the perfect introduction to the sad, empty, highly-sexualized, and amoral world of modern romance.

Authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccilo pack quite a punch in this little book. As the authors explain, the book grew out of an accidental conversation in the writers' room of Sex and the City. As Liz Tuccilo explains, the female writers were "talking, pitching ideas, our personal love lives weaving in and out of the fictional lives we were creating in the room. And just like on any other day, one of the women on staff asked for feedback on the behavior of a man whom she liked. He was giving her mixed messages--she was confused. We were happy to pitch in and pick apart all the signs and signals of his actions. And just like on any other day, after much analysis and debate, we concluded that she was fabulous, he must be scared, he's never met a woman as great as her, he is intimidated, and she should just give him time."

But, that female conversation was interrupted by a male consultant for the program who walked into the room, Greg Behrendt. "On this day," Liz reports, "Greg listened intently to the story and our reactions, and then said to the woman in question, 'Listen, it sounds like he's just not that into you.'"

This simple observation dawned as a great metaphysical discovery on the part of the female writers. "We were shocked, appalled, amused, horrified, and above all, intrigued," Tuccilo reports. "We sensed immediately that this man might be speaking the truth. A truth that we, in our combined hundred years of dating experience, had never considered, and definitely never considered saying out loud."

Greg Behrendt also provides his side of the story, explaining that he had the "good fortune to be the only straight male on the predominantly female writing staff" of Sex and the City. He confirms Tuccilo's version of the story. "When a guy is into you, he lets you know it," Behrendt instructs. "He calls, he shows up, he wants to meet your friends, he can't keep his eyes or hands off of you, and when it's time to have sex, he's more than overjoyed to oblige." According to Behrendt, "Men are not complicated, although we'd like you to think we are."

The strategic conversation in the Sex and the City writers' room became the catalyst for He's Just Not That Into You as Behrendt and Tuccilo combined their talents and insights to write the book from a combined male and female perspective. The end result is something like a primer for romance according to the worldview of Sex and the City -- but this time corrected by a male influence. The fact that this male influence has to be identified as heterosexual tells you a great deal about how postmodern this worldview really is.

The book is divided into sixteen chapters, most offering what is intended to be a significant lesson for women as they try to understand the men in their lives. According to Behrendt and Tuccilo, a woman should understand that a man is "not that into you" if he is not calling her, is not dating her, is not having sex with her, is having sex with someone else, only wants to see her when he's drunk, doesn't want to marry her, is breaking up with her, has disappeared on her, is married, is a selfish jerk, a bully, or is "a really big freak."

The authors offer a series of excuses women make in order to rationalize the fact that the relationship is not moving forward in a way they would desire. The issue here is really quite clear. According to Behrendt and Tuccilo, women are looking for men who will initiate the relationship, sustain its development, engage in sexual relations in order to establish compatibility, and then move into deeper maturity on the way to marriage. This is the fairy tale as presented in both Sex and the City and this illuminating little book.

In the background to all this is the fact that many women are experiencing great grief in relationships with disinterested, immature, and lecherous men. However, the most interesting insight from this book is the fact that there must be many women--this is The New York Times' best-selling nonfiction book, after all -- who are doing their best to rationalize why the men in their lives appear to be disinterested in romance and responsibility.

The authors dismiss excuses such as "he doesn't want to ruin the friendship," "maybe he's intimidated by me," "maybe he wants to take it slow," and "maybe he forgot to remember me."

At times, the authors write with a combined voice, while individual messages from Behrendt and Tuccilo are inserted into the text. Behrendt does the hard labor in this partnership, serving as the wise and experienced man who can offer his testosterone-filled insights into the decadence, disinterest, and depravity of his fellow men.

The book is a litany of female complaints against men, followed by hypothesized reasons why men fail to deliver on their commitments. "Annie" wrote the authors to explain that her date almost never calls when he says he will, even when it is supposed to be only a few minutes later. Greg responds on behalf of the writing team, suggesting, "Here's the deal. Most guys will say what they think you want to hear at the end of a date or phone call, rather than nothing at all. Some guys are lying, some guys really mean it. Here's how you can tell the difference: You know they mean it when they actually do what they say they were going to do. Here's something else to think about: Calling when you say you're going to is the very first brick in the house you are building of love and trust. If you can't lay this one stupid brick down, you ain't never gonna to have a house, baby. And it's cold outside."

That response pretty much sums up the style of the book and the depth of its advice. Actual functioning, mature, working marriages are a far-off vision for these women. In an odd note, Liz Tuccilo tells of working with Greg Behrendt on the book in New York City, noticing that Greg "would often call his wife just to tell her that he couldn't really talk to her right then, but he was thinking of her and would call later." This kind of loving gesture is obviously foreign to Tuccilo's experience. "It didn't look like the most difficult thing in the world," she said, "but it sure seemed nice."

Moving on to other issues in the romantic relationship, Behrendt and Tuccilo suggest that "hanging out" is not the same thing as dating. If a man does not take responsibility to invite a woman on a date, make appropriate arrangements, and invest in the experience, he's just not that into you.

Inevitably, the issue of sex arises in just the way we would expect, coming from writers for Sex and the City. According to these authors, if a man is attracted to a woman, he will move directly to initiating sex. "If he were into you," they explain, "he would be having a hard time keeping his paws off you. Oh the simplicity of it all! If a man is not trying to undress you, he's not into you."

They completely dismiss men who do not move immediately to demand sex or men who think that sex ought to wait for marriage.

In a chapter that would seem to be unnecessary, even for the lovelorn readers of this book, Behrendt and Tuccilo explain that if a man is having sex with another woman, he is probably not a good candidate for future romance. Get this line: "If he's sleeping with someone else without your knowledge or encouragement, he is not only behaving like a man who's just not that into you, he's behaving like a man who doesn't even like you all that much."

How do you take that advice apart? According to the Sex and the City worldview, it would presumably be just fine if the man were having sex with another woman with her knowledge or encouragement. The sex itself is not bad, wrong, or problematic according to Behrendt and Tuccilo. The issue is cheating. Writing to "Fiona," Greg Behrendt offers this advice: "Well, you can choose to believe he is sorry. You can choose to believe he will change. But in my book, lying, cheating, hiding is the exact opposite of the behavior of a man who's really into you." Got it?

The following chapters offer similar advice, instructing women on the wiles and basic immaturity of men. You don't have to read between the lines to see that these writers assume that men will use women and that women are so desperate for romance and sex that they are willing to be used.

Interestingly, marriage remains very much on the horizon. The women whose unfulfilling relationships presumably form the market for this book are desperately seeking to be married. "Every man you have ever dated who has said he doesn't want to get married or doesn't believe in marriage, or has 'issues' with marriage, will, rest assured, someday be married," Behrendt and Tuccilo explain. "It just will never be with you."

In an interesting exchange, "Danielle" wrote a letter explaining that the main man in her life is "just not ready" to get married. After dating for five years, "I'm only twenty-eight and people get married much later these days. And sometimes it takes longer for guys to grow up than girls. So I want to be understanding, but I'm just not sure how long I'm supposed to wait. Does he need more time or is he just not that into marrying me?"

Greg responds, "I hate to tell you this, but here's why he feels rushed: He's still not sure you're the one. Yep, my lovely, I know it's hard to hear, but better to hear it now than ten years from now. So you can stay with him and continue to audition for the part of his lucky wife, or you can go find someone who doesn't need a decade or two to realize you're the best thing that ever happened to him."

He's Just Not That Into You is the perfect portrait of postmodern romance. With romantic love isolated from the Christian worldview that gave it birth, sex, romance, and whatever is considered love are combined in a tragic mix of confusion. Nevertheless, the book -- and the fact that it now ranks as the top-selling nonfiction title -- tells us something Christians need to know about the worldview, experience, and tragic emptiness of so many people in modern secular America.

Feminists promised American women a festival of liberated delights, describing marriage as a domestic prison and male leadership as oppressive patriarchy. What are feminists to make of this book, these women, and this advice? Clearly, these women desperately want men to grow up, initiate relationships, lead, and move toward marriage.

Tragically, these authors -- and the millions they represent -- see sex as a way of luring, securing, and enticing men into romantic relationships. When these relationships fail -- as this book proves they so often do -- women are left feeling used, abused, empty, and hopeless. He's Just Not That Into You represents one of the most tragic and depressing books published in recent years. Nevertheless, those of us who know the Bible's understanding of sex, romance, and marriage should pay attention to this book and realize why the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is good news in more ways than one--rescuing us not only from sin, but from this tragic pattern of emptiness, disappointment, and confusion.

The hundreds of thousands of women reading this book desperately need the right advice -- but that's the last thing they're going to get from a Sex and the City writing team.

Why do people use people and love things when they should love people and use things?

The Landmine of Discouragement

Psalm 42:5-8

Some people suffer the effects of discouragement for months or years. They do not know how to repair the damage caused by this devastating landmine. But how does such a loss of confidence and optimism originate?

Disappointment is our emotional response to a failed expectation. When we allow disappointment to fester by refusing to recognize and deal with failure, we slip into discouragement. Disappointments are inevitable, but believers don't have to be in bondage to discouragement.

We all face troubling times that make us feel weak, and we will continue to have these experiences throughout our life. Discouragement, however, should be temporary. Just as we drive through a tunnel, we can enter moments of discouragement and then come out on the other side. I have experienced situations in which I was very discouraged for a season of time. Occasionally, I have needed to get on my knees during the night to cry out to God for encouragement. After asking Him for a change in attitude and help to lay down my burden, I have been able to fall back to sleep.

In order to gain victory, we must first look within ourselves. We need to admit our specific discouragement and the unresolved conflicts in our heart. Identifying the root cause of our disheartened feelings allows us to work through them. Most importantly, we must turn to God. As long as we are talking about our hurt, our suffering, our embarrassment, or our shattered dreams, we will wallow in despair. But the moment we lift our heads and say "Father," we take our first step out of discouragement.

The Landmine of Covetousness

Ephesians 5:1-5

One of the best-concealed landmines in the life of a believer is covetousness. We tend to think the term simply describes a desire for an item belonging to another person, but it goes deeper than that. Covetousness is an intense yearning for something we do not have coupled with the belief that we will not be happy or satisfied until we get it.

When we are driven by an insatiable longing that distracts us from our relationship with God, then we are in danger - such intense craving is really a form of idolatry. Our preoccupation with satisfying the desire translates into our placing a higher value on the object than on God. That is the very nature of idol worship.

We all have desires of the heart, many of which are planted by God Himself; longings within the framework of His will are acceptable. There is nothing in the Bible that says it is wrong to want a nice house or a reliable car. God has a purpose, plan, and time worked out to meet our needs and supply legitimate wants. However, when we choose to fulfill a God-given desire in a way that is not in keeping with Hs will, we are guilty of covetousness.

The reason covetousness is so damaging is that it has no end. When we achieve one goal that we thought would satisfy, we discover that we are still not content. So we look to something else that we think will bring satisfaction. But nothing can bring peace and genuine contentment to our heart except a relationship with God.
The Consequences of Coveting

Exodus 18:17-21

People oftentimes develop a desire for something that is not in God's plan for them. When they fail to attain what their heart is set on, the desire can build into intense, unrelenting pressure.

Believers who are consumed by covetousness have ceased to depend on God. To reach our goals, we can manipulate circumstances because we have lost faith in the Lord's ability to know what is best and provide it. Such behavior indicates that we reject the sovereignty of God. Then fear fills our lives as we chase harder and harder after the things we desire.
The consequences of covetousness are painful. Our sensitivity to God weakens to the point that we cannot hear when He speaks to us. As we distance ourselves from Him, our envious attitude breeds ungratefulness. We can no longer be thankful for what we have, because our focus is on what we do not possess.

Covetousness leads to a life of tension and worry. Jethro wisely advised his son-in-law Moses to search for assistants who hated ill-gotten gain. These men were more interested in what God provided for them than in what they could acquire for themselves. If we want to be like the individuals Jethro described, we must focus on God's purpose for our lives. When we are sensitive to His voice, He will teach us to distinguish between desires falling within His will and those that lie beyond. As believers, we have the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us resist the lure of wrong desires. Covetousness does not have to be our downfall.

The Flight of Geese

2 Chronicles 30:12

Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.

A major corporation conducted a study on the flight of geese. In their study they found that geese fly in a "V" formation with one goose in the lead. After a period of time, this goose relinquishes the lead to another goose. During flight they noticed head movements of the leader that seem to give signals to the other geese flying, perhaps to let the others know how he was doing. They estimate that the formation flight pattern reduces wind drag due to the lift the other birds receive and believe it increases their performance by up to 70 percent. Whenever one goose drops out, another goes with it. These two geese do not catch up to the original pack, but join another group later.

Independence is one of the strongholds of the marketplace. The entire system feeds the desire within us to gain recognition from our individual achievements. We wrongly believe financial independence frees us from needing to depend on anyone else. The fact is, dependence on others is a good thing. It can bring us into a unity of spirit that accomplishes much more with less effort while meeting needs for each of us. Christ talked a lot about unity among brothers and sisters. He said that others would know we are believers by our love for one another and by our unity. We need to depend on others so that we don't go it alone. By walking together we increase our strength. By going it alone we must carry a load we were never intended to carry. God did not create us to go it alone. By joining together we accomplish more for the glory of God.

An Encounter With God

Daniel 10:8

So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.

Daniel received a vision that troubled him greatly. He wanted understanding of this vision. He set himself out to understand the vision by fasting for three weeks. Three days after his three weeks of fasting, a messenger of God appeared to Daniel. The messenger explained that Heaven had heard his prayer from the first day, but the angel was temporarily prevented from coming by the prince of Persia, a demon angel, who sought to thwart God's messenger from coming to Daniel.

There are times in our lives when we must set ourselves to seeking God with all our hearts. It is in these times that we hear from Heaven in ways we may never have experienced before. Daniel's perseverance in prayer was rewarded with a personal encounter with Heaven. However, in order to receive from God, Daniel had to be left alone, his strength removed, and be placed in a helpless condition. When we have no ability in our own strength to move Heaven or the events around us, we are in position to hear from Heaven. It is the acknowledgment of our humanity and our frailness that places us in a position to have a personal encounter with the living God.