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Christian / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on February 27, 2018, 08:27:21 pm »
I’m Right Here
Jan 22, 2018 | Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

Fear not I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.  Isaiah 43:1-2

Friend to Friend
While walking into the opening session of a marriage conference that we had been looking forward to his cell phone rang. He answered the call and we took our seats. As the emcee kicked off the weekend with gracious  greetings, my husband, Brad, leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Preston fell on a rock at camp and is on his way to urgent care to get stitches in his chin.”

Less than an hour later, Brad’s cell rang again. An update.  “He said that Preston broke his jaw,” Brad said with a tone of disbelief. “I can’t believe this. They need us to come get him and take him to Charlotte. He might need surgery.”

Gripped by his words, I struggled to think clearly.  A broken jaw?


It was just supposed to be a few stitches! I really hate that I’m not with him right now.  Bags were packed quickly and by the time darkness fell on North Carolina, Charlotte was on the horizon.  The next several hours were a blur of doctors, x-rays, CAT scans and surgery plans. Bad went to worse as we learned that Preston didn’t just break his jaw he broke his jaw in three places, and, as the doctor phrased it, “he pretty much broke his jaw as bad as you can break a jaw.”

Nice.  Surgery began and the wait was on and on and on. The heart-distance between the operating room and the waiting room was a thousand miles. It killed me to not hold his hand and stroke his hair while his jaw was reconstructed for seven and a half hours.  In the wee hours of the morning, surgery was complete and Preston was wheeled to his room. Brad and I rushed to his side as they brought him to his room and though he was heavily sedated, I reached for his hand and assured him, “Preston, I’m right here! I’m right by your side. I will stay here beside you. I know you’re in pain, buddy, but you’re going to heal well now. I’m right here and I love you.”

His eyes flickered open for a split second to let Brad and I know that he heard our love. Then he drifted back to post-surgical sleep.  Several times an hour the nurses came in to check his vitals. I hadn’t slept in nearly a day and was thoroughly exhausted, but each time a nurse entered the room I leapt to his side and whispered to my wounded child, “I’m right here, Preston! I’m right here. You’re not alone.” 

After the third or fourth time of reassuring Preston of my presence, I lay back down and whispered to God, “Lord, please heal my son! Please heal him.”

And in the still of the night, in the quietness of my bleeding momma-heart, my soul sensed Him whispering right back to me, “I’m right here, Gwen. I’m right here. For him. For you. You’re not alone.”

Peace.  My soul heard the voice of Peace speak His presence and tenderness into my pain. He heard me. He knew of my plight. He knew I needed a word of encouragement. Not an audible word just a heart whisper. He was right by my side. I knew it as I remembered His Word:  The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Peace.   There are times when our heavy heart-burdens cry so loudly that we struggle to hear the voice of Peace and to remember the unsearchable, inescapable presence of God; times when our prayers seem to go unanswered and our broken situations seem unfixable and painful. Oh, so painful!  We all know ache.  We can’t get through this life without knowing ache. The Bible says that not a tear falls that isn’t known to the Lord. (Psalm 56:8)

God knows all about your heart-burdens.  Hear His whisper now. Whispers from His Word from His heart, “I will never leave you or forsake you. I know your name and have engraved it on the palm of my hand. I hold your tears in a bottle and ache with you. My grace is sufficient and I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. I’m right here.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 139, Psalm 56:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9, John 16:33)
Christian / Today's Bible Reading - January 22, 2018
« Last post by Philippa on February 27, 2018, 08:16:38 pm »
Exodus 4-6
4 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.  2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.  3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.  4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:  5 That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.  6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.  7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.  8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.  9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.  10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.  11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?  12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.  13 And he said, O my LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.  14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.  15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.  16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.  17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.  18 And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.  19 And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.  20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.  21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.  22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:  23 And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.  24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.  26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.  27 And the LORD said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.  28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.  29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:  30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.  31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.  5 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.  2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.  3 And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the LORD our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.  4 And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens.  5 And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. 6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, 7 Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.  8 And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God.  9 Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.  10 And the taskmasters of the people went out, and their officers, and they spake to the people, saying, Thus saith Pharaoh, I will not give you straw.  11 Go ye, get you straw where ye can find it: yet not ought of your work shall be diminished.  12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw.  13 And the taskmasters hasted them, saying, Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw.  14 And the officers of the children of Israel, which Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and demanded, Wherefore have ye not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and to day, as heretofore?  15 Then the officers of the children of Israel came and cried unto Pharaoh, saying, Wherefore dealest thou thus with thy servants?  16 There is no straw given unto thy servants, and they say to us, Make brick: and, behold, thy servants are beaten; but the fault is in thine own people.  17 But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD.   18 Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.  19 And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task.  20 And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh:  21 And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.  22 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, LORD, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?  23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all. 6 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.  2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD:  3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.  4 And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.  5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.  6 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:  7 And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.  8 And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the LORD.  9 And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.  10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 11 Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.  12 And Moses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?  13 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.  14 These be the heads of their fathers' houses: The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel; Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi: these be the families of Reuben.  15 And the sons of Simeon; Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman: these are the families of Simeon.  16 And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari: and the years of the life of Levi were an hundred thirty and seven years.  17 The sons of Gershon; Libni, and Shimi, according to their families.  18 And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years.  19 And the sons of Merari; Mahali and Mushi: these are the families of Levi according to their generations.  20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.  21 And the sons of Izhar; Korah, and Nepheg, and Zichri.  22 And the sons of Uzziel; Mishael, and Elzaphan, and Zithri.  23 And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.  24 And the sons of Korah; Assir, and Elkanah, and Abiasaph: these are the families of the Korhites.  25 And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bare him Phinehas: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families.  26 These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom the LORD said, Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies.  27 These are they which spake to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt: these are that Moses and Aaron.  28 And it came to pass on the day when the LORD spake unto Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 That the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I am the LORD: speak thou unto Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say unto thee.  30 And Moses said before the LORD, Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken unto me?
King James Version (KJV)

Matthew 14:22-36
22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.  23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.  24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.  25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.  28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.  31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?  32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.  33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.  34 And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.  35 And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; 36 And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.
King James Version (KJV)
Christian / 5 Mighty Women Who Risked It All for God
« Last post by The Rani on January 22, 2018, 09:05:49 pm »

5 Mighty Women Who Risked It All for God
By Carrie Kintz
November 16, 2017
Mighty women throughout biblical and church history have contributed much to the faith, often at very steep costs. They have gone to the uttermost parts of the earth on missions. Written hymns. Shared the Gospel in their homes and cities. And their contributions to the rich tapestry of our faith should be honored.  Here are five women who have significantly impacted the church for the Gospel of Jesus.

Joni Eareckson Tada

It’s hard not to know the story of Joni Eareckson Tada. After a diving accident made her a quadriplegic at the age of 18, she struggled with depression and doubt when it came to faith. It was in those struggles that she eventually came to the Lord.  Joni Eareckson Tada is a champion for people who have disabilities, and a teacher who reminds the church to see all humans, regardless of ability, as made in the image of God. She has shared openly about her own walk with the Lord and the challenges she’s faced in life, including a breast cancer diagnosis in 2010. Her words resonate with millions around the world as she spreads the gospel. Her life is an inspiration, paving the way for many in the body of Jesus who have developmental struggles or disabilities to minister and contribute.

Ann Voskamp

In 2011, a little book simply titled One Thousand Gifts settled on Christian bookshelves and changed the way people looked at Thanksgiving. Ann Voskamp was catapulted onto best-seller lists and became a staple in Christian Living with her blog “A Holy Experience,” which details her everyday live, causes she believes in, and encouraging those to participate in the beautiful and hard things of the Bible.  With a quirky writing style, but the ability to write straight to the heart, Ann has gifted the church with words that call us to simple faith, deep love for Jesus and a desire to love people well. She’s been honest about her struggles and unafraid to challenge her readers to action. Her words changed the course of an entire generation, exhorting them to thanksgiving for the great gifts of God and encouraging them live them out every day. Ann bares her heart and soul about the tough things in life, and has become an example of what authentic Christian life in an ever-changing culture can look like.

Elisabeth Elliot

Her story was something out of the New Testament. A husband martyred for his faith in Jesus in Ecuador. She returned to Ecuador a short time later with her small daughter to preach the Gospel to the same tribe who killed her husband. She wrote 40+ books on enduring faith, purity in relationships and the family.  When Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, the Christian church deeply mourned the loss of one of its most influential mothers. Elliot spoke with intensity and great depth about Scripture and how it applies to every aspect of life. She modeled discipleship. She showed the church what it means to persevere and endure in suffering. Elisabeth Elliot understood the importance of leading people to intimacy with Jesus. And she highlighted others in the faith who did the same thing. Her legacy of faith, love and hope continues to endure.

Amy Carmichael

In her biography on Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Eliot wrote that Carmichael’s great longing was “to have a single eye for the glory of God.” Amy Carmichael was a missionary in India. She spent more than 50 years in the country, founding an orphanage and mission in Dohnavur. Her life and ministry, outlined in her own books, as well as a handful of biographies, have been an example to generations of Christian missionaries.  Before India became her home, Carmichael spent years working with mill girls in Manchester, England. But it was a speech from missionary Hudson Taylor in 1887 that changed her path to the call of missionary. Eventually ending up in India, Amy Carmichael spent her years resucing young women and girls from temple prostitution. Eventually they added a boys home to the mission, supporting children born from temple prostitutes.  She often dressed in Indian dress, darkened her skin with coffee and allowed the workers in the mission to be called by Indian names. When asked what missionary life was like, she responded with, “Missionary life is a chance to die.”

Her legacy lives on in India with the mission in Dohnavur still continues, serving more than 500 children in the area.

Christine Caine

Christine Caine knows how to command the attention of a room. She speaks boldly and with authority on issues relating to human trafficking, leadership and the Gospel. She’s been open about the obstacles and tragedies in her life, from sharing about the sexual abuse she endured as a child, to fighting cancer.  Along with her husband Nick, they run A21 dedicated to rescuing people out of human trafficking and educating the church and culture on the issues of trafficking. Caine is also a frequent speaker at conferences and workshops around the world. Most recently she joined Propel Women, a movement dedicated to celebrating every woman’s unique passion, purpose and potential.  She has impacted the way the church sees women teachers and isn’t afraid of challenging the body of Christ to stand boldly against the world, the flesh and the devil. She speaks directly to women, encouraging them to move into their God-given gifts and to help them lead more effectively in the church.  As we look at these five women, and millions of others who have positively impacted the world for Jesus, we don’t hold them up to idolize them. Instead, we see them for who they are: women who have sacrificed their lives for His sake. Out of their own brokenness, struggle, heartbreak and hurt, they have preached the gospel of Jesus in a world desperate for hope. As we live our lives, may we emulate that same heart and attitude in our walk of discipleship.
Fun, Games and Silliness / Re: Jokes
« Last post by shortcake on January 21, 2018, 10:19:40 pm »
There once was a rich man who was near death. He was very grieved because he had worked so hard for his money and he wanted to be able to take it with him to heaven. So he began to pray that he might be able to take some of his wealth with him.  An angel hears his plea and appears to him, "Sorry, but you can't take your wealth with you."

The man implores the angel to speak to God to see if He might bend the rules.  The man continues to pray that his wealth could follow him. The angel reappears and informs the man that God has decided to allow him to take one suitcase with him. Overjoyed, the man gathers his largest suitcase and fills it with pure gold bars and places it beside his bed.  Soon afterward the man dies and shows up at the Gates of Heaven to greet St. Peter. Seeing the suitcase Peter says, "Hold on, you can't bring that in here!"

But the man explains to him that he has permission and asks him to verify his story with the Lord. Sure enough, Peter checks and comes back saying, "You're right. You are allowed one carry-on bag, but I'm supposed to check its contents before letting it through."

Peter opens the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind and exclaims, "You brought pavement?!?!"
Fun, Games and Silliness / Jokes
« Last post by shortcake on January 21, 2018, 09:57:39 pm »
The teacher asked young Malcolm: "What do you do at Christmas time?"
Malcolm addressed the class: "Well Miss Jones, my twelve brothers and sisters and I go to midnight mass and we sing hymns; then we come home very late and we put mince pies by the back door and hang up our stockings. Then all excited, we go to bed and wait for Santa Claus to come with all our toys."
"Very nice Malcolm," she said. "Now Jimmy, what do you do at Christmas?"
"Well, Miss Jones, my sister and I also go to church with Mom and Dad and we sing carols and we get home ever so late. We put cookies and milk by the chimney and we hang up our stockings. We hardly sleep, waiting for Santa Claus to bring our presents."
Realizing there were Jewish boys in the class and not wanting to leave them out of the discussion, she asked, "Now, Isaac, what do you do at Christmas?"
Isaac said, "Well, Miss Jones, it's the same thing every year Dad comes home from the office, we all pile into the Rolls Royce and drive to Dad's toy factory. When we get inside, we look at all the empty shelves and begin to sing 'What A Friend We Have in Jesus.'  Then we all get on Dad’s jet and fly to the Bahamas."
Marriage & Relationships / The Worst Betrayal of Marriage
« Last post by Shadow Rider on November 17, 2017, 09:20:58 pm »

The Worst Betrayal of Marriage
By Gary Thomas - October 23, 2017

My wife loves to play Boggle and she’s really good at it, which is why few people want to play her. But on her birthday and Mother’s Day, and usually at least one evening during a holiday, her family joins her. Our love for her calls us to join her in her great love.  Lisa also loves to bike, which is why I bike a lot more than I probably would otherwise. I prefer to run. But Lisa’s love for biking makes me much more of a biker.  That principle we do what our spouse loves and likes to do is fine when it comes to hobbies. It is spiritually deadly and poisonous when the same principle is unleashed by our sins.  If you hold on to a sinful attitude, there will come a time when you will want your spouse to join you in that sin.  Marriage contains within itself the power of glorious good encouragement, support, enthusiasm, love, service, loyalty. It gives us the tools to bless one particular person like we can bless no one else. But this potential comes with a sinister side it also offers a platform from which we invite our spouse to enter into our own temptations. From this vantage point we can do great and serious evil.  In an old, old sermon Clarence Macartney warned that while Satan is “the ultimate source and author of temptation, yet it is sadly and fearfully true that men deliberately tempt other men.  One fallen person has a diabolical delight in bringing another down to the same level.”

Once we give in to sin, we can’t contain its spread any more than we can immediately confine an oil tanker spill. Sin spreads widely and chaotically by its very nature; it multiplies beyond our control (the more we give in, the stronger its hold on us) and therefore makes those closest to us most vulnerable.  The challenge is that no one not a single soul is exempt from sometimes fierce temptation. To live is to be tempted. To breathe is to be lured toward a fall. Sometimes we will fall, and we will be grateful for God’s grace and Jesus’ remedy. But one aspect of temptation, particularly as it relates to marriage, that we need to be especially careful about is not dragging our spouse into the temptation.  Macartney writes, “However much we have been marred and scarred by the tempter’s shafts, let us at least see to it that ours shall not be the guilt of tempting another soul. If in hell there are gradations of punishments, as the words of Jesus about few and many stripes would seem to indicate, then hell’s severest retributions must surely fall upon the souls of those who have deliberately and malignantly tempted other people.”

How do we tempt our spouse?

If you are a liar, you will eventually ask your spouse to also lie in order to cover up your initial deceit. You may even ask them to lie to one of their dearest friends or nearest relatives. Perhaps you’ll ask them to lie to a government official. When you do that, you have entered a new level of evil and are abusing the intimacy of marriage.  If you cherish a sexual sin, the time will likely come when you will ask your spouse to join you in that weakness. It will no longer be sufficient to merely get lost in a fantasy of thought you may want to live it out. And your spouse, predisposed to please you and enjoy you, will feel more intense temptation even though the weakness may be something they never would have thought of on their own. This is a serious betrayal of the marital bed and the marital bond.  If you are negative or a gossip, you will try to draw your spouse into speaking critically of others, or make them feel less than thankful for the good things God has given them. Instead of leaving church satisfied by the worship, you will remind them that the pastor said one sentence that could possibly be taken the wrong way. Instead of making them grateful for how God has provided, you will be a constant drip of negativity for how everything in your house or car or life isn’t quite “perfect” and you can’t be content until everything is, in fact, perfect.  These are just three examples you can supply many others on your own. But the possibility of tempting our spouse and maybe even unthinkingly inviting them to join us in our sin should be enough to make us pursue holiness for the sake of our spouse. I hate my sin and I hate how I am tempted I’m sure you do as well. The last thing I want to do is to take something I hate and make it a part of my precious wife’s life as well.  You cannot accommodate sin without endangering your spouse. Your apathy toward growing a heart that is a bulwark against sin is tantamount to a man who, out of laziness, refuses to even close the door of his house while he is away, inviting all to enter as they wish.  One of the reasons we bought our particular house in the Heights is that it has a locked wall around it. The outside gate is a stout door surrounded by brick; the other side is protected by a tall barred fence (the Heights is in the urban part of Houston, so crime isn’t all that uncommon, unfortunately). We have video cameras on both entrances. Every time I leave the house in the morning while Lisa is still inside, I lock the inside doors, and I lock the outside door and gate. I have no peace of mind until I know my wife is safe behind at least two formidable barriers.  But how foolish would it be to lock physical doors while leaving spiritual ones open?

How stupid would it be to protect our house from physical theft while leaving Satan a highway into my wife’s heart and soul through my own uncontested weakness?

Don’t accept in your own soul that which could poison your spouse’s. It’s not just about you. It’s about your spouse, your kids and others.   If you ask, how can I grow out of my particular sin and confront my particular temptation, let me suggest N.T. Wright’s After You Believe. It’s a bit academic, but the teaching is gold. It’s my favorite “go-to” book on sanctification. If you want a less academic approach, you might consider one of my old books The Glorious Pursuit, about practicing the virtues (I talk about how the best defense is often a good offense grow a virtue that is opposite the vice and thereby suffocate the vice).  Perhaps you could list some other books (or sermons, with links) that have helped you pursue a life of holiness in the comments section below, so that we can encourage each other.  It’s a sober thought, but one we need to take seriously: If we consistently fall to temptation, our beloved spouse (and kids) will likely be the first casualty.
Teenagers / How to Help Teens Deal With Difficult Situations at Home
« Last post by Shadow Rider on November 17, 2017, 09:00:47 pm »

How to Help Teens Deal With Difficult Situations at Home
By Rachel Blom - October 15, 2017

There’s no such thing as a perfect family, but some of our teens face a more difficult situation at home than others. Their parents are divorced, they’re growing up in a single parent family, they’re part of a complicated family structure with step- and half-siblings, you name it. Or they have to deal with unsupportive parents who are not doing a good job in raising them, who take their own frustrations out on their kids.  How do we help our teens to deal with difficult situations like this with their parents?

Is there anyway we can help them, equip them?

Can we in anyway compensate for what they miss out?

Here are some of my thoughts.

1. Help them understand

While it’s certainly not their task to be the adult in the relationship, it does help if teens understand their parents better. That means we may need to take the time to explain difficult family dynamics, or educate them on the effects of, for instance, divorce or loss.  We need to be careful not to condone any negative behavior, but we can try to make the teen aware that there are reasons for it. Also, it’s important to realize that this is especially tough for younger teens who have a hard time understanding abstract concepts and emotions, so make it as clear and concrete as you can.  If we can help teens understand their parent(s) better, it’s a good first step in coming up with a constructive approach to the situation.

2. Help them respond

It’s tough for teens to respond well to difficult situations, especially when they feel they aren’t in any way responsible. That’s why it’s good to make teens aware that they may not have a choice in the circumstances, but that they do have a choice in how to respond to them.  What we need to realize is that as Christians we have a tendency to set the bar extremely high in these situations. We tell teens to respond in love, with forgiveness, we tell them they need to be the least, to turn the other cheek. It’s not only impossible to be that perfect, it’s also very abstract.  Instead of giving teens lofty advice, help them find a good response in situations they face regularly. Ask them to name a few difficult situations they have to deal with daily or weekly. Talk these really through with them and then help them come up with a constructive response. Practice it with them if necessary and keep asking how they’re doing. When they’ve ‘mastered’ these situations, help them come up with good responses to other situations.

3. Help them cope

Kids deserve better than dealing with difficult parents. They need our help to come to terms with what’s happening in their home. So give them a chance to talk about it, to be sad about it, to grieve about it even. They have a right. Even when the circumstances are out of control for the parents (like an unwanted divorce), teens need a place to be angry about this. Often they can’t show this anger at home, because they don’t want to upset mom or dad even further. Give them a safe place to work through it.

4. Help them find truth

One of the most difficult situations is when teens only hear negative messages at home, when one or both parents are systematically undermining their self-worth. This is when they need you to speak the truth and God’s truth into their life. You’ll need to give them the messages they need to hear, but don’t get at home. You’ll need to affirm them and so counter the damaging influence of what they hear at home.  In these situations, finding a mentor for the teen who really has the time to share life with them is a great idea. These teens are extremely vulnerable and you need to pour love into their lives as much as you can, so if you can find anyone willing to do that (maybe even someone who can be a ‘parent’ or ‘grandparent’ to them), that could make a huge difference.

5. Help them find help

There’s a fine line between facing a difficult situation at home and neglect or abuse. When you have teens who are at risk for this, do keep a close eye on their situation to make sure it stays on the right side of that line. Talk to these teens, make sure to win their confidence so that they know they can come to you if they’re in trouble. Communicate that they have a safe place with you, that they can come if they need to, that you will help them.  And help them find help when necessary. If things get out of hand, help them report it to authorities. Help them make the right choices.  In all of this, pray for these teens. Pray that God will protect them, their hearts especially, that they will not only survive but thrive. Pray for lasting changes and improvements in their circumstances. Pray for wisdom for yourself, that you may win their trust and do the right thing. Pray that your heart will be overflowing with love for them, so that God may use you to bless them greatly.

Searching for Christian Heroines from History? Look to the Early Church
How women were instrumental to the rise of Christianity.

I, Amy, am often asked why I became a historical theologian of early Christianity what it was that gripped my imagination and pricked my desire to contribute to the 2,000-year-old conversation by Christians speaking about God. For me it was sitting in an undergraduate class and hearing about the controversial second-century prophetesses Priscilla and Maximilla. All of a sudden my charismatic tradition, which before had seemed to me to be a novel force for mobilizing the church, had a history beyond the New Testament.  Almost 15 years later and on the cusp of doctoral work, I was approached by Sarah, a 20 year old pastor’s daughter, after a service at my small urban church in Aurora, Illinois. She asked, “What is my role now in the church as a single, young adult woman? Where do I fit?”

I knew Sarah well, and her earnest question confirmed that part of my journey as a theologian was to answer her question and to tell some stories about women in early Christianity and how they were instrumental in constructing the church and its teachings.  In graduate school in the 1980s, I, Lynn, read Julian of Norwich’s Showings; I was pregnant with my first child. The juxtaposition is important, for Julian’s vision includes a rich reflection on Christ as our Mother. This 14th century anchorite gave me my first glimpse of women’s influence and authority in the life of the church. I wanted to investigate more and plunged into the church fathers’ work. If reading Julian’s Showings was like a walk in a gentle summer rain, then Tertullian’s hateful comment, “Woman is the devil’s gateway,”

stung like hail in a thunderstorm. I decided to abandon the exploration for a time, for lack of a suitable guide to help navigate the unfamiliar terrain.  Recent scholarship, however, has provided important methodological insights that allow today’s readers to navigate the early Christian texts’ rhetoric concerning women and the category of female. Greater attention is now paid to the role and influence of women in theological conversations and controversies. In this context, I have since resumed my journey into the world of Christian women in the early church.  The Greek myth of Pandora gives us some context for understanding women in world history. According to the myth, not only was Pandora created as a punishing “gift” after man had stolen fire from Prometheus, but also she, the first of womankind, opened a jar out of curiosity and released all kinds of evil. This story not only denigrates the creation of woman but also blames her for the ills of the world. Pandora introduces difference into a homogeneous world by her very presence, her femininity a dangerous enigma that brings catastrophe. Pandora serves as the archetype for the dangerous female, and women have been trying to revise or reconstruct (or at times embrace) this myth ever since.  Feminists have shone the spotlight on history and literature, demonstrating how the oppression of women is deeply entrenched, systemically permeating political structures, domestic life, and religious devotion. Of course, Christianity is not immune to the charge of denigrating women and in fact has often been the appropriated force behind the subjugation of women and even the instigator of atrocities against various groups of women. Our approach stands over against both those works of modern scholarship that simply lament and dismiss the church fathers as hopelessly misogynistic, as well as those that take a naive, pious perspective on the evidence, for both approaches fail to deal analytically with the sources.  Within these early Christian writings, we find disparaging comments about women or the female sex as well as active engagement and genuine conversation with learned women. We have examples of women living their lives with creative energy and mobility, taking opportunities as they arise, owning agency and demonstrating religious conviction in ways that surprise modern sensibilities, and contributing to the variegated story of early Christianity. We are fortunate enough to have accounts of some of these ancient and modern women.  Thecla was a protomartyr whose story in the Acts of Paul and Thecla reverberated from the mid-second century well into the Middle Ages and was used as a meme for theological and philosophical reflection and ethical direction. Perpetua, an early martyr whose testimony, “I am a Christian,” sealed her fate, was memorialized in the yearly liturgical cycle of the church.

Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, declared her Christian identity by opening the imperial coffers to build imposing basilicas in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Both Helena and Egeria, a wealthy woman from the western edges of the empire, set out on pilgrimages that were much more than personal quests for spiritual renewal.  Another influential mother, Monica, the mother of Augustine, is remembered by her son for her tireless commitment to prayer for his salvation, her bright mind for philosophical dialogue, and her maturity in faith that drew them both into communion with God. A woman named Macrina embraced the monastic life and guided her brothers, Gregory of Nyssa and Basil of Caesarea, in spiritual and philosophical teachings. Melania the Elder and her granddaughter, Melania the Younger, along with Paula and Marcella, give us examples of aristocrats-turned-ascetics who abdicated their wealth and powerful societal positions in order to establish monasteries, promote scholarship, and participate in key doctrinal discussions of their day. We also know of two empresses of the Theodosian court, Pulcheria and Eudocia. Pulcheria was the powerful sister of the Christian emperor Theodosius II who influenced two of the most important councils in church history; Eudocia became Theodosius’s wife, as well as a poet and pilgrim who was often at odds with the imperial house.  Historical accounts tell us that these women contributed to the lively contemporary philosophical discussions surrounding human nature, the human body, and the future of humanity. Women like Paula and Melania the Elder participated in these debates and helped shape early Christianity with their intellectual acuity and their desire to live lives marked by devotion to God. We do not have nearly enough of these accounts, but what we do find is that Christian women often had to navigate the tricky congress between their femaleness and the faith, tradition, and Scriptures that they held so dear. Women of various regions, backgrounds, situations, and temperaments from the earliest centuries of Christianity assumed authority, exercised power, and shaped not only their legacy but also the legacy of Christianity.  The point of highlighting these connections is not to show direct cause and effect or to identify some line of “orthodox” women that preserved a “pure” Christianity. Instead, we want to show how women were right in the thick of everything, how their participation and contributions were vital to the construction and maturation of the early church, and how men and women depended on one another for the sake of their love for Christ.  By telling the stories of Christian women in the patristic period and taking seriously their Christian beliefs (doctrine, worship, Scripture, and community) we can remember a fuller and richer Christian history and engage in our own communities with a stronger, sharper, and sophisticated appreciation for the Christian women of the past. Simply put: Reading texts about and by early Christian women helps us expand our understanding of what the Christian story is.
Christian / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on November 16, 2017, 11:18:36 pm »
Friday, June 02, 2017   

A Powerful Tool
Lisa-Jo Baker

Today’s Verse
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  James 1:19 (NIV)

I’m always staggered by how fast my reflex is to defend myself or justify my position. Or to talk back fast before anyone can get another word in. Or to respond in anger. But James advises: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (1:19).

It is not easy to open your ears and close your mouth. It is not easy to sit at the table and let a friend talk and talk and really try to understand. It is not easy to give someone the benefit of the doubt.  Yet listening is one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to defusing a hard conversation. Making someone feel heard helps take the sting out of their frustration and opens the door for dialogue. Defending yourself adds fuel to the fire; listening to someone helps put it out. Are we willing to listen before we defend ourselves, to hear before we justify ourselves, to reflect before we respond?

This is not an easy thing but it is a necessary thing.  When I’ve done all that I believe I can in a difficult relationship, I have been known to tell God, Well, I’m done, as I pat myself on the back for giving it such a good go. But God has consistently insisted that there is no “done” when it comes to sacrificial love. There is only “more.” More changing. More bending. More willingness to be open. More choosing to stay instead of cutting loose and quitting. More listening.
Christian / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on November 16, 2017, 11:14:35 pm »
Thursday, June 01, 2017   

Showing Up
Lisa-Jo Baker

Today’s Verse

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  Romans 12:15 (NIV)

Maybe the most intimate, radical thing we can do for our friends is to show up. To show up like Jesus did in person, willing to experience life with the community around him. When we show up, we are giving our friends the same gift Jesus did: the gift of presence. Like Jesus, we can show up and do one of two things: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

We can cry the ugly cry with our friends and we can also celebrate with whooping and hollering and confetti.  Jesus models what it looks like to invite God into both experiences. Jesus lived the whole arc of the human emotional spectrum from weddings to funerals. In fact, he announced his public ministry at a wedding an event of dancing, love, laughter, and passion. In Jewish culture, this was often seven days of unmitigated joy, of food, of family, of telling stories, and celebrating.  But he also stood outside the tomb of a friend as close as a brother and wept alongside friends, strangers, sisters, believers, and doubters. Jesus was tied in friendship to Mary and Martha and he entered fully into their grief. Their joy was his joy; their sorrow was his sorrow.  When we’ve run out of words, when we’re beside ourselves with the pain that we’re watching our friends go through, can we follow Jesus’ example and give them the gift of our presence, our tears, and our sorrow?

In joy or grief, may we give our friends ourselves.
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