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Look Away from Yourself

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Wait—stop reading. Look up from this post and fasten your eyes on something else and then come back to your reading.

Do you see that in one very important sense, that’s all that God has required of you? The shifting of your eyes from this post to another object doesn’t require great skill, deep understanding, or monumental strength. It simply requires a desire to do so. That’s what faith is: a looking away from yourself to Someone else. While that is a true definition of faith, it needs to be expanded.

Gazing at the Cross

To help you understand what true faith is, think again about the Israelites in the wilderness. If they had scoffed at the bronze serpent or just glanced at it in curiosity, it wouldn’t have been an agent of healing for them, would’ve it? It didn’t contain any magical powers in and of itself. In the same way, I’m pretty sure there were people standing about at the foot of the cross, watching the Lord die, who did not automatically inherit eternal life. No, the bronze serpent and the crucified Son are agents of healing only when our gaze gives evidence to the simple belief that good will come to us from God.

Faith, then, is a trusting in the love and mercy of God.

It is hoping for an unseen mercy—it is a conviction that God desires to bless us (Hebrews 11:1).

God’s Precious Gift

There is something in the heart of all givers, and in God’s heart in particular, that recoils at the prospect of a precious gift being refused. Just as my mother would be offended if I declined her offer of an inheritance, so God is offended if we refuse to believe that he is merciful and loving enough to give us good gifts, in spite of ourselves.

The writer of Hebrews captures this thought in 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

All That’s Required of Us

In order to find ourselves in the enviable position of “pleasing God,” we must have a faith that believes that the invisible God is really and truly here, and that he’ll reward our seeking of him—that was all that was required of the Israelite children, and that’s all that’s required of us.

We shall have a complete definition of faith if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of God’s favor towards us, based on the truth of a free promise in Christ. . . . We are drawn to seek God when we are told that our safety is treasured up in him, and we are confirmed in this when he declares that he takes a deep interest in our welfare. . . . It would be useless to know that God is true, if he did not lovingly draw us to himself. We could not lay hold of his mercy if he did not offer it.


This post is an adapted excerpt from Elyse’s book, Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life

Shepherding the “ewes” – September 15

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Impact a Younger Gal by Unwrapping Your Life

You’ve learned life. Bible studies and times in the Word have changed you because you heard Him speak to you and you obeyed. God’s truths have molded, refined, changed you…the life of Christ impacting your life through your obedience and His grace.  And the hard knocks of life have done their part. You’re ready. It’s time to be emptied and poured out so He can fill you again.

His life, truths, and wisdom, plus practical experience gained through years…will you open up, walk with a younger gal along her journey, and share what He’s taught you? We call it “Shepherding the Flock: 2gether, Growing in Godliness.”

Our next session on shepherding (mentoring/discipling) our young “ewes” is on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 15, 4 to 6 in Room 104. Our first session was introductory; this session will get down to some “how-to’s”; some resources; and some testimonies of those who’ve been “shepherding” a long time.

Upcoming Game Night

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Game Night – September 22

This is what FUN is all about! Mix and mingle with some “fresh” fellowship…meet some new faces… learn a new recipe…laugh about winning OR  losing! It’s Game Night for the ladies comin’ up soon.  Bring a friend; bring some munchies; bring a game if you want. Show up at 6:30 on September 22 (a Sunday night) in the café/chapel to join in the fun. We’ll see ya at the boards!

Another Way to Look at Turkey

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This is the month of Thankfulness. All you have to do is log on Facebook to affirm it. Many friends participate and show their gratitude by posting a different thing they are thankful for each day leading up to Thanksgiving. While it’s good to give thanks for our blessings, Flannery O’Connor’s short story, The Turkey, made me reflect on both the grace God provides in ordinary life, as well as what he asks of his disciples.

The story begins with Ruller, an 11-year-old boy “playing by himself” in the woods when he spots an injured turkey. He figures it must be at least ten pounds. Once Ruller realized that it couldn’t even fly, he determined he was going to get that turkey. What a gift God was giving him! Immediately, he began to think about all the glory that would come his way when he came home with a wild turkey over his shoulder. This news would surely make the list of things his parents would talk about in bed. Unbeknownst to them, Ruller stayed awake, carefully hanging on to every word of their pillow talk. Eventually dad would ask, “How are the boys?” each night. Although a bit peculiar, he was faring better than his older brother Hane, who was wearing his mother “to a frazzle” with his rebellious behavior. “Hane played pool and smoked cigarettes and sneaked in at twelve-thirty and boy he thought he was something.” Now Ruller was really going to be something to talk about when he victoriously brought home this turkey.

Until the chase ran his head straight into a tree branch that cleaned his clock.

By the time he realized what he had done, Ruller was on his back and the turkey was nowhere in sight. “It was like somebody had played a dirty trick on him.” That turkey was dangled in front of him as a prize that he couldn’t have. As Ruller now conceded that he was going to go home beat up and empty-handed, the cursing began. First it was just “nuts,” and then “Oh hell.” But this bad providence sent Ruller into cursing God’s name in a way that would make his grandma’s “teeth fall in her soup.” The turkey that got away had Ruller considering, even relishing, the glory he would get as a bad boy. Hane had nuthin’ on him.

But wait.

The turkey hadn’t escaped after all. It was just behind the thicket. Ruller began to think maybe God had put the turkey there to keep him from going bad. When he finally captured that turkey, he decided to take the long way home through town. Now that he was getting the glory for this spectacular hunt, Ruller grew thankful for this gift from God. In fact, he pledged to give the dime that his grandma had given him to a beggar on the way home. What a good boy he was.

Aren’t we so often the same way? God gives us our heart’s desire and we soak up all the glory for ourselves, parading our accomplishments over our shoulder through town. When God is handing out the blessings, we acknowledge his great favor. But perhaps God’s greatest gift to Ruller was knocking him upside the head with that branch, exposing his sinful nature when he thought his pursuit was for naught.

As he was fantasizing about the acclaim of his family members and townsmen, it never occurred to Ruller that God didn’t want the dime from his grandma. God wanted the very thing he gave him. And God was to get the glory. That’s the ironic twist to the story as Ruller was showing his turkey off to some country boys. In the midst of his own glory as a hunter and giver to the poor, his foolishness didn’t see it coming. Only this time, it didn’t take a branch to clean his clock. Just some country boys who tricked him into handing them the turkey.  Now all he had to show was a bruised and dirty body. What kind of boy was he going to be now?

Our God is good, but it isn’t because of the things he gives us. A studier of his Word will know that the cross comes before the crown. The life of the disciple is one of self-denial. God always deserves all the glory, even in his severe mercies of taking away what we treasure above him. The almighty God is our ultimate blessing. He is our great reward.

This article was written by Aimee Byrd and can be found on her blog, housewife theologian, here

The Word and Women

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I spend a lot of time with women. On most days a parade of women’s faces and voices is moving through my mind—reminders and echoes from various conferences and Bible study groups. Having recently visited a number of women’s groups in England, I’m currently hearing echoes of strong words, articulated with that invigorating British combination of joviality and definiteness. It was a joy to be among various evangelical groups, and to witness both the hunger for God’s Word and also the training up of women to meet that hunger. They’re in a context where women’s issues are hotly debated, and where their complementarian position is generally scorned.  They’re studying and teaching and sharing the Bible with all their hearts. They’re doing it with the encouragement of pastoral leadership committed to biblical instruction of all God’s people. I learned a great deal from my sisters in England.

It’s interesting to return from that context into our ongoing American conversation over gender roles. What strikes me is that we women (just like all human beings everywhere) do best when we focus on taking in and giving out the comprehensive revelation of God’s Word. If it’s really true that the Bible is made up of God’s breathed-out, living and active words, then there’s nothing more important, during this short span of time before we meet God face to face, than hearing and believing and sharing and delighting in his words of life to us.

Any time we pull out one strand of Scripture and concentrate on it, apart from God’s full revelation, we can so easily get into trouble. Women love to talk and think about women. And we should! We must! However, if we focus too exclusively on that theme, it tends to grow into the overarching one that interprets everything else we read and think. We might do better, all of us, to aim for a consistent focus on Scripture’s main theme. I don’t have that theme in a nutshell, but it might be something like: God redeeming a people for himself, through Jesus Christ his Son. However we summarize it, surely we Christians would put Jesus Christ and his redemption at the center of the Bible’s whole revelation. The question I must ask myself is whether that theme is at the center of my thinking.

Environmentalists . . . parents . . . artists . . . women . . . all of us, whatever our specific concerns, tend to look for the strand of the Scriptures that relates to us. The danger comes any time I go after making my own story (or women’s stories) central, as opposed to making sense of my story (or women’s stories) within the larger story of God’s redemption in Christ. Take the scriptural word submission, for example. If I focus on that word and that principle itself, I can get in all kinds of trouble. I can blow up the word into all sorts of rules and scenarios that Scripture itself never addresses. Or I can diminish the word into a shriveled-up relic, ignoring Scripture’s plain command. The word is given to us and explained to us in the context of Christ and his church. The principle is shown to shine throughout the Scriptures from the very first woman onward, as the story of the first man and woman keeps appearing, a reference point never left behind. I believe we women can learn about submission in the best way by studying the whole Scriptures, and by learning to love Christ as he is revealed to us and speaks to us through the inspired Word.

Spirit-Filled Power and Clarity

Christ’s love is revealed to us in a book. I don’t mean to trespass into the territory of bibliolatry, but I do mean to affirm the Spirit-filled power and clarity of the God-breathed Word. The principle of Scripture’s perspicuity (clarity, or understandability), for which the Reformers fought and died, is crucial. God’s Word is neither too vague nor too complicated to be understood clearly by God’s people. In Nehemiah 8, all the “men and women and all who could understand what they heard” stood for hours listening and learning from the Levites, who “helped the people to understand the Law” and “gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” The people went away rejoicing, “because they had understood the words that were declared to them” (Neh. 8:137-812).

I love it that the women are mentioned in that magnificent scene from Nehemiah, where the remnant of God’s people who’ve returned from exile to a broken-down city recommit themselves to being a people of God’s Word. They are holding on to God’s promises when all the visible signs of those promises have been cut away; they’re left with the promises themselves, the words. And so in that scene they listen really carefully, for hours. They study the words to understand what God is saying to them.

That’s what we need to do, isn’t it? Women, like all of God’s people, need to listen really carefully to all of God’s Word, book by book, from beginning to end. We need to learn how to read it, so that we can rightly evaluate the voices around us that would tell us what it says or doesn’t say. We need to seek and live under the leadership of godly preachers and teachers who love and reverence God’s Word—not just “out there” in cyberspace but in local, biblically committed congregations. Within the community of God’s people we need to study the Word book by book, learning how to grasp the main point of a book and how that main point shapes everything in that book from beginning to end. What’s the main point of the book of Titus, and how does each passage within that book fit into the whole? What is the book of Judges all about, and what do we learn from it about the Bible’s unfolding story of redemption? We need to read the stories of various women, like Sarah, or Ruth, or Jephtha’s daughter, in light of the whole books in which they are found and in light of the Bible’s overarching theme. We need to teach and model for the younger women around us how to read and study the Word. We need to share with other women not just a message of encouragement for women, but a message of redeemed life in Christ for every person who believes in him, according to his Word.

It’s all about the Word. It’s our God-given lamp to light our paths. I’m still hearing those English women’s sturdy voices in my mind, talking about studying the Bible. They reminded me again that, until we get to see Jesus face to face, we get to live on his Word.


This article was written by Kathleen Nielson and originally posted at It can be found here.

Why Them?

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Created for God’s Glory Bible study with Lynn Broderick; Wednesday nights 6:30 to 8:00; room 405

What makes a person – any person – special enough to warrant an honorable mention by God in His Word?
When God chose to record His dealings with mankind, revealing His character and His ways, He did so by revealing His relationship with men He chose, and with some women also. Relatively few women are mentioned in contrast to the number of men. Why did God choose these women? What made them special? What can we as women learn from their victories and/or mistakes, in order to become more godly and Christ -like?  Come find out!
There is no homework per-say. The only request is for you to keep a journal of God’s impressions to you as we study.

The WHAT and the WHY of Precepts

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The book of Zechariah is such an encouraging book to be studied, especially during the current times of such unrest in the world and at home.  We want to know what the future holds for us — that vast uncharted sea of unknown, holding joy or terror, comfort or pain, love or loneliness.  Some people fear the days to come, wondering what evils lurk in the shadows; others use any means they can trying desperately to discover what might lie ahead.  But tomorrow’s story is known only to God and only a few chapters have been revealed to us through the Scriptures.  God used Zechariah to proclaim the Word of the Lord and give a brief view into what promises God had for our future; pointing out sin, explaining its consequences, and calling men and women to repentance and obedience.
Your King is Coming and He will reign forever and ever.  The Messiah will come both to rescue people from sin and to reign as king.  He will establish His kingdom, conquer all His enemies, and rule over all the earth.  Everything will one day be under His loving and powerful control.  So why do we worry and fret so much about what God knows and controls for our future?  We may never see more than a moment ahead, but we can be secure if we trust in Him.  Come and study the book of Zechariah and strengthen your faith in  God — He alone is your hope and security in the unknown future we face. 
What is Precept?
An in-depth inductive way to study God’s Word by observing the text line-by-line and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal deap and wonderful insights into God’s wisdom and understanding. The study began Oct 11 and will run every Thursday. from 9:30am to 11:30am. Email Judy for more information. 
Why come?
I have been studying with Kay Arthur and Precept Ministries for over 20 years and can hardly wait to start the next study.  God reveals so much application from His word during the studies that I never seem to exhaust the depths of His blessings for me in His Word.  I not only learn from the text but from the other women in the class as they share the insights and understanding they have received from the ultimate teacher – Holy Spirit.  God wants us to know without any doubt that He is God and there is no other……He will meet with you moment by moment as you allow Him time in His Word.

A Black and White Choice NOT to read Fifty Shades of Grey

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The following is from and is written by Mary Kassian

A Black and White Choice NOT to read Fifty Shades of Grey Photo | Girls Gone Wise “Fifty Shades of Grey,” an erotic novel by an obscure British author based on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, has electrified women across the country. Readers have spread the word like wildfire on Facebook pages, in college hallways, at office functions and in spin classes. Within six weeks of publication, the three books of the series, Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, claimed the top three spots in USA Today’s Best-Selling Books list. Sales have topped 10 million. The series is so popular that last month, author E. L. James was listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World“.

Red Room of Pain

The books in question are erotica that explicitly describe sexual bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM). The story follows an unfolding affair between a recent college graduate, the virgin Anastasia Steele, and handsome young billionaire entrepreneur, Christian Grey, whose childhood abuse left him a deeply damaged individual, and who enlists her to share his secret sexual proclivities. Steele is required by Grey to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her. Because of her fascination and budding love for him, she consents to a kinky sexual relationship that includes being slapped, spanked, handcuffed, and whipped with a leather riding crop in his “Red Room of Pain.”

A few weeks ago, the book popped up as Amazon’s suggested buy on my Kindle. I declined. Like my friend,Dannah Gresh, I absolutely refuse to read these books.

Smut is Smut

Undoubtedly, the series portrays BDSM in the context of an engaging, passionate, tender, romantic relationship that culminates in the characters falling in love, and the conflicted girl assuaging the billionaire’s troubled soul. But it doesn’t matter to me how the author sweetens it up. The tasty red Kool-Aid doesn’t offset the bitter poison. Smut is still smut.

I don’t have to read the book to know that it’s bad for women. Nor do I need to read it to tell you that I think it would be unwise for you to read it.

7 Reasons Not to Read 50 Shades

1. It violates God’s design for sex:

God created sex to be exclusive to marriage. In 50 Shades the relationship is based on a sex contract, not a marriage covenant. The Lord says that sex outside of marriage is sin. It grieves Christ when we take pleasure in something He abhors.

 2. It violates the biblical concept of authority:

The relationship between a man and wife is to mirror Christ’s relationship to His Bride. BDSM tells a lie about the nature of that relationship. Christ taught and modelled that authority is for the purpose of loving service. It is not an egotistical power trip. Christ is not into domination, control, abuse, and humiliation. So in my mind, there’s something seriously wrong when we get a kick out of interpersonal domination/humiliation, and bring BDSM into Christian bedrooms.

3.  It violates the biblical concept of submission:

A wife’s submission is first and foremost to Christ. The biblical directive to submit does not turn women into brain-dead, passive, weak-willed doormats who acquiesce to the whims of dominant, controlling men. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Lord doesn’t want His daughters to be wilting, weak-willed, wimpy women who welcome and enjoy abuse. BDSM perverts and mocks the beauty of what true submission is all about.

 4. It encourages the sin of sensuality:

Erotica is a genre that aims to arouse sexual desire. It evokes sensuality, a sin that appears in numerous New Testament lists of vices (Gal 5:19, Rom. 13:13, Mark 7:21-23, 1 Pet 4:3, 2 Cor. 12:21). Sensuality is anything that

  1. is characterized by lust
  2. expresses lewdness or lust,
  3. tends to excite lust.

Scripture tells us to flee all such things.

5. It promotes sexual perversion:

“Curiosity” has led to the downfall of multitudes who have been trapped in the destructive, downward vortex of sexual sin. Fifty Shades piques curiosity. It dangles behaviors that are forbidden, unfamiliar, and titillating. Maybe you’re just curious, or maybe you rationalize that it might boost your libido and marital sex life. And it might. Temporarily. But the problem with erotica, as with porn, is that you’ll end up craving increasingly graphic, perverse images over time. Erotica/porn lead to deeper, darker erotica/porn. What’s more, they end up robbing people of the joy and satisfaction of “ordinary,” non-twisted sex with an “ordinary” spouse. In the end, they assault and diminish a healthy sex life.

6. It glamorizes pathological relationships:

The male protagonist is a very tortured and misunderstood soul with a proclivity for sexual perversion. One moment he is abusive, and the next he is tender and romantic. The girl feels she is the only one who can reach him and help him. Hmmm. Sounds like a seriously dysfunctional co-dependent abusive relationship to me. AsDr. Pinksy, a relationship expert said, “the idea that women look at this relationship as anything other than absolute, categorical, profound pathology is more than I can imagine… I worry about the 15-year-olds and 19-year-olds reading this and formulating a notion that this is anything close to a reasonable relationship.”

7. You won’t get it out of your head:

The Bible tells us to think about things that are pure, right, excellent, praiseworthy, lovely, admirable, noble, and true (Phil 4:8) There’s truth to the old proverb that “as a man thinketh so is he,” and the modern day adage, “garbage in – garbage out.” Your thoughts have transformational power – for good or for evil. Filling your head with thoughts of sin, sensuality, dysfunction, and BDSM will lead you further away from the things of God and not closer to them. Darkness has incredible “sticking power” – Once exposed, it can be extremely difficult to get the images and thoughts out of your head.

As Dannah says,

“God has given me more than fifty shades of truth in His Word and when just one of them is in conflict with my entertainment choices, I choose to pass! To be clear: I wouldn’t drive my Envoy into the front of an oncoming semi-truck any more than I would open the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey. I love my marriage, my God, and myself too much.”

So girls, have some respect for the Lord, and for yourselves. Exercise some discernment, and don’t read this book!

In my opinion, the choice whether or not to read Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty black and white.

Here’s Your Sign

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The following is from and is intended to get us thinking. Enjoy.


Well it happened again. There I was, innocently driving my car,  only to come face to face with another bad church sign. Here is what the latest offender said:

“Pray” is a four-letter word that you can’t say in public school.

Really? Let’s get our facts straight before we put them on our church signs. The word “pray” is not banned from public school. Praying isn’t banned either. I remember when my oldest daughter started elementary school, she and a friend used to “say grace” before their lunch together everyday. (That’s in a public school, by the way.) Now in middle school, she is part of a student-led “Bible Club” that meets after school a couple of times a month. She has never encountered opposition from administrators for these things, because it is perfectly legal.

What this church sign is intimating is the Supreme Court decision in 1962 to ban any form of organized, state-sponsored prayer or religious services in school. But we have to also look at what led up to this. Originally, Christianity was taught in the public school. Children actually learned their ABC’s and biblical catechism’s together (for a good little history lesson on this, read Stephen Prothero’s book, Religious Literacy):

A–In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all.

B—Heaven to find; The Bible to mind.

C—Christ crucify’d; For sinners dy’d.

School books such as spellers and readers taught biblical knowledge, integrated with their learning tasks. One of the primary motivations for literacy was for more Americans to be able to read their Bibles. Not a bad idea. And yet, these well-intended motivations led to inevitable conflict.

I don’t think it’s helpful to paint public schools out to be our enemy. There were many factors in our American history that contributed to the removal of religious content from the public schools, such as the Sunday school movement and Bible and tract societies, that were not the result of the evil government stifling faith. For the sake of ecumenism in teaching Christianity, religious content was diluted. While it first seemed wise for Christian religions to come together and teach their children, theology had been replaced by morality. The biblical content itself suffered on account of nondenominationalism. We can’t just blame the government for taking the Bible out of the schools. History shows that the Protestant verses Catholic wars on which Bible translation was to be used in schools led to the court cases that banned religious material and organized prayer.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want my children’s public school teachers teaching them how to pray any more than I want my pastor to teach a math lesson from the pulpit. The Fourteenth Amendment required the scope of this federal amendment to be applied at the state level. The first part of this amendment, known as the Establishment Clause, assures me that there will never be an established religion imposed on my child. The second part, known as the Free Exercise Clause, ensures me that “pray” is not a four-letter word. My kids are allowed to pray on their own, as long as they are not being disruptive.

Of course, I don’t want to paint a picture of the public schools with rose-colored glasses. As Christians, we recognize that many of the secular interpretations of natural revelation are taught under a world view that is different from the biblical account of creation. We all want our kids to receive the best education we can provide them in the natural sciences and in the content their faith. Since we are the primary arbitrators for our children’s education, we need to consider all obstacles and benefits of our choices, whether public, private, or homeschooling. And we need to be equally discerning in the churches we join.

We can also acknowledge that some of the best educators are public school teachers.  My husband happens to teach fourth grade in the public schools.  We should be happy to have Christians working in this field for both believer’s and unbeliever’s children.  Hopefully, families will be sensitive in their decision-making not to hold their own convictions about how to educate their children above other families.  These are difficult choices.  None of them are without pitfalls, and we should make our decisions with humility.

It just isn’t helpful to pit the church against public schools. Plastering misinformation or exaggerations on your church sign does not contribute in a positive manner to the problems that do exist.

Ironically, the church across the street from this offender was advertising their extreme couponing workshop on their church sign…