There’s No Easy Way to Learn Patience

MEGAN HILL|GUEST “Don’t pray for patience,” you’ve probably heard someone say. “God just might take you up on it!” Behind our wry smiles and awkward chuckles is an uncomfortable truth: there is no easy way to learn patience. James also affirms that, for believers, trials are the school of patience. “Count it all joy, my brothers,” he writes, “when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2–3). Under God’s sovereign hand, the testing of our faith is a carefully-chosen curriculum, designed by him to produce steadfastness in our hearts. Although we might endure difficulties hoping our circumstances will change, James reveals that the greatest change happens in us, even while we wait. Various Kinds of Testing The Lord produces this steadfastness through trials of “various kinds,” with each person’s circumstances uniquely intended for her good. A recurring battle with sin is often his means of training us to renounce ungodliness (cf. Titus 2:11–13). Affliction allows us to learn his power made perfect in weakness (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9). Unmet desires may be his way of redirecting our desires toward himself (cf. Ps. 73:25–26)...

There’s No Easy Way to Learn Patience2022-05-04T23:28:02+00:00

Seeing the Unseen Victims of Domestic Violence in Your Church

DARBY STRICKLAND|GUEST Did you know that 25% of married Christian women are being abused by their spouses? How might that change your response when a woman in your church comes up to you seeking marital advice? Victims of abuse need you to be alert to their reality. How might knowing the prevalence of domestic abuse prompt you to engage women in your church differently? I know it is hard to imagine that domestic abuse is so common, let alone that it frequently occurs in your church. And, regardless of how often it is occurring in your church, if there is even one woman in your local church body that is being abused, she needs you to be alert to recognize her situation. Unaware of a Pervasive Problem     There are two main reasons we often do not detect the presence of domestic abuse. The first is that marital oppression occurs behind closed doors—it is typically not something we observe happening. Oppressors use coercion and punishment in private to control their spouse, while they manage a carefully crafted image in public. The Bill Cosby and Ravi Zacharias scandals help us to better understand an abuser's ability to deceive those around him. They behaved very differently in public than in private. People who perpetrate abuse are master deceivers. That means there are most likely abusive people in your church that you could never imagine were abusive. Many abusers do not fit the loud, aggressive, out-of-control personality that you might picture in your mind. The second reason why we do not recognize abuse is because the victim does not realize she is being oppressed. I have had hundreds of conversations with victims who themselves struggle to call abusive behaviors sin, let alone abuse. Victims of abuse know that something is wrong, but they often do not know what it is. They worry that they exaggerate, are oversensitive, are ultimately responsible for their spouse's anger, or do not remember things correctly when recounting an intense conflict. Their abuser blames them for how he treats them, and they come to believe the cruel and twisted accusations. Consequently, they live in a fog of confusion created by their oppressor. Because of their inability to comprehend that what they are enduring rises to the level of abuse, when abused women approach other women in the church, they will ask for advice or feedback...

Seeing the Unseen Victims of Domestic Violence in Your Church2022-05-04T23:28:13+00:00

Why Does Covenant Theology Matter?

HEATHER MOLENDYK|CONTRIBUTOR The air is thick with fear. Every time you step out of your house you see those worried glances flicking from face to face taking inventory of those wearing masks and those who do not. Social media is flooded with opinions and anecdotes regarding the decision to vaccinate or not. News coverage saturates our vision with death and violence and unrest. The world writhes under the pain of pollution, needless destruction, wanton waste, and never-ending selfishness. Comfort is the ultimate commodity, whereas life is easily disposable. There are no guarantees for tomorrow. The air is thick with fear. A broken beginning Adam crouches in the shadows. He unsuccessfully wills his frame to shrink smaller to avoid detection from the Holy God moving towards him in the garden. Adam’s heart pounds with the beat of trepidation while he hides in shame. Everything is wrong. “I heard the sound of you in the garden,” Adam admits to God, “and I was afraid” (Gen. 3:10). Adam has a right to be afraid. He has disobeyed and broken the one commandment the Lord God had given him: do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. With the forbidden bite, comes a flood of consequences: shame, embarrassment, damaged relationships, hardships, and pain. The relationship with his creator is severed, and Adam is now destined to die. The air is thick with fear. Stepping into the destruction with the Covenant of Commencement Although Adam fully deserves to be dismissed and abandoned to his fate of judgement and death, God refuses to walk away. Instead, the Creator takes a step closer. Though this journey will cost the Creator His very son, God sets in motion a plan to hold onto the people He loves. God extends the promise of a Savior to destroy the snares of sin, fear, and death (Gen. 3:14-15). There is hope for God’s people in the Covenant of Commencement...

Why Does Covenant Theology Matter?2022-05-04T23:28:25+00:00

God’s Promised Deliverance Precedes Our Difficulties

STEPHANIE HUBACH|CONTRIBUTOR “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15) In February 2020, we had the privilege of taking our youngest son Tim—who has Down syndrome—on his first ocean cruise. At that time, there were rumblings in the news about a concerning virus that was beginning to wreak havoc in Asia, but our chosen journey was thousands of miles from there. Surely, we had plenty of time to fulfill one of Tim’s long-held dreams. (A funny thing happened during our island-hopping expedition, however. Tim informed us that, when he said he wanted to go on a cruise, he really meant “the one with the little hotdogs.” Translate: Tim wanted a ferry ride on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, 45 minutes from our house. But I digress.) Our adventure took us to four countries in the Caribbean over the course of a week. Tim absolutely loved it! (Probably because there were much grander meals than just “little hotdogs.”) One of the highlights of the trip was the dining experience. Not only was the food abundant and well prepared but the service was exactly as advertised: intuitive. Our dedicated server quickly dis­cerned our personal preferences the first day, and from there on out, she anticipated our desires before we even expressed them. It was impressive! Now think about your own life. As extraordinary as a quality cruise line is at anticipating the wants of its customers, how much more extraordinary is it that our heavenly Father actually knows the needs of his people with full certainty? He promises—faithfully and sacrificially— to meet us in our deepest dilemmas before we are even aware of the seriousness of our situation. Today’s passage in Genesis 3 is often referred to by theologians as the protoevangelium or, in plain English, the “first gospel.” Even before the effects of our first par­ents’ fall are clearly pronounced on humanity in the remainder of the chapter (see Gen. 3:16–19), God first describes a way of salvation for humanity as he addresses the serpent. Not only does God decree a solution—his Son Jesus is the solution. And this declaration happens before his image­ bearing creatures even fully understand the predicament they have entered into...

God’s Promised Deliverance Precedes Our Difficulties2022-05-04T23:28:35+00:00

Engaging Singles in the Body of Christ

JENILYN SWETT|GUEST For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Rom. 12:4–5). Paul’s use of body imagery to describe the church is both helpful and – at times – humorous. In 1 Corinthians, he wonders about what would happen if the whole body were an eye. Have you ever stopped to picture that? Or to picture a foot saying “That hand is so elegant and functional. Lil’ ol’ me isn’t needed here”? His point is made clearly: we need every part of the body to show up and function well (1 Cor. 12:14-19). As a single woman on the verge of 40, there can be times when the church body starts to feel like one giant eye made up of families with kids. And much like that foot, I have many single friends who struggle to feel like there is a place, a desire, a need for them to be part of the church body. Yet Paul tells us that in Christ, we are all, in fact, “members of one another.” When we take membership vows in the church, we make promises to help one another grow and pursue faithfulness. This is a commitment we make regardless of marital status, stage of life, vocational pursuits, or any other aspect of difference or commonality we may have. So how can the hand and the foot, the ear and the eye, the lungs and the kneecap, grow in relationship and more fully enjoy being part of the body together? This certainly comes through worshiping, studying God’s Word, and serving together within your church community. But let me share a few other ways that members of my church body have helped to assure me of my belonging to the body and to affirm our interdependence on one another:[1] Four Practical Ways to Engage Singles in the Body of Christ Seek to include and befriend. In the midst of all of our busy lives, it can be easy to overlook those whose lives and routines are unlike our own. But consider how you can include single people even in the midst of what your life already entails. Invite someone to join you in the pew or for lunch after church. I’ve loved being included in chaotic weeknight dinners, family birthday celebrations and movie nights, and joining in the cheering section at a kiddo’s soccer game. If it crosses your mind to extend an invitation, don’t talk yourself out of it – do it! Pursuit and companionship are great gifts in what can be a solitary season....

Engaging Singles in the Body of Christ2022-05-04T23:28:45+00:00

Preparing to Meet Jesus

SHARON ROCKWELL|GUEST This summer some young women from my Bible study decided to make the long drive to visit our classmate— a woman who had recently moved out of the county to an assisted living home to be by her daughter. Her health had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer take care of her home or herself. She had been with my small group for many years, and she will be sorely missed when we start up in the fall. We were met with a flood of thankful tears when we arrived. Agnes’ new home was small but decorated with the things she cherished most. Family pictures were hung on the walls, as were a large cross and several plaques with Bible verses that were particularly meaningful to her. On her kitchen table was a large print Bible. I noticed a magnifying glass nearby, along with a pad of paper that was labeled “prayer requests.” After our tour of her new place, Agnes told us the details of her health condition, a recent fall, and the need for her walker now. At lunch, and after she was updated on all our personal news, Agnes asked how she could pray for each of us. She commented that she saw prayer as her only remaining purpose in living. Her body was slowing down, but her prayer life was expanding as she met the people in her new home. Still, she told us change was hard. I first met Agnes (name has been changed) when I randomly sat next to her in a fellowship hall more than ten years ago. She was in her 80’s then and told me this was her fourth time through the Bible series. Clearly, she had trouble seeing the text and hearing our lesson, so I asked her why she wanted to repeat the study again. I will never forget her answer. She said she wanted to be well prepared for when she saw Jesus...

Preparing to Meet Jesus2022-05-04T23:28:54+00:00

Grieving the Loss of a Baby? You Are Not Alone

LAURA BOOZ|GUEST The banquet room sparkled with excitement as waiters removed our dinner plates and topped off steaming cups of coffee. I reached toward the center of the table and selected a dish of chocolate mousse. I was attending a bloggers’ conference with hundreds of women from all over the country who loved the Lord and wanted to reach others through blogging. We networked with one another and attended sessions about how to write compelling content, attract readers, and manage the technical side of writing online. The room relaxed as we rearranged our chairs to enjoy a warm drink and listen to the evening keynote address. We applauded as Angie Smith made her way up to the stage. I couldn’t believe that she was speaking at this conference. I had just read I Will Carry You, a book Angie Smith wrote about carrying her baby, Audrey, to term, despite the doctor’s prognosis that her daughter wouldn’t live long after birth. Audrey did, in fact, die shortly after birth. The book is heartbreaking and helpful. Here was Angie, at the blogging conference that would keep me occupied as my baby’s due date came and went. I originally thought I would have to miss the conference because I would be in my hometown delivering a full-term baby, healthy and happy. But I had delivered my baby four months ago. She was stillborn. Earlier in the evening, I had introduced myself to Angie and told her how much her book meant to me. She listened intently, as if I were the only grieving mother in the world. She hugged me and looked in my eyes and asked, “What is your baby’s name?”...

Grieving the Loss of a Baby? You Are Not Alone2022-05-04T23:29:03+00:00
Go to Top