Sex and the Christian Woman (Part 1)

designWhat does being a Christian woman mean for my sexuality? Can I be spiritual and sexual? If so, what does that even look like?

Maybe you were raised to have a blasé attitude towards sex where a sexual appetite – like a desire for food – was okay to fulfill anytime you were hungry (just make sure you’re using protection, right?). Maybe you grew up in church and in a Christian family where all you heard about sex was “true love waits” or “don’t do it until you’re married.” Who knows how the sex talk went or if it even happened in your family. And when was the last time you heard a preacher cover topics such as oral sex, anal sex, erotica, masturbation, or BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, & Masochism) in their sermons? But turn on the TV, and our culture has no problem joking about such things and presenting them for all to see. But why would we ever let the world teach us about sex, love, and relationships? For too long, we as Christ-followers have taken our cue from the world instead of the Word when it comes to sexuality.

To initiate conversations on biblical womanhood and sexuality, the BH Women Blog will feature a series this month on “Sex and the Christian Woman” in which you will read a combination of stories from women in our faith family on various topics such as marriage to a porn-addicted spouse as well as information on everything from what the Bible says about masturbation to how to talk to your kids about sex. To be honest, seeing the movie trailer for 50 Shades of Gray prompted this blog series, and our Women’s Minister and I want to stimulate conversation about God’s design for sexuality and arm ladies with truth from the Word during a time when so many women (possibly even some from our church) will turn out to watch this sordid, deplorable movie.

Spiritual and Sexual

All people are sexual beings. We get this in how God created both men and women. Furthermore, God created sex and designed it to be pleasurable and to further intimacy between a husband and wife. Because He created sex, it also means that God gave us sexual desires, and within the context of His design, sex, desire, and sexual pleasure are good!

I have one friend who grew up in a strict, puritanical church, and once married, she had difficulty enjoying sex with her husband because of the teachings and attitudes she had imbibed about sex from her church. Understandably, her pastor and Sunday School teachers wanted their church members to abstain from premarital sex and to honor Christ with their purity, but their good intentions were tainted by austere rules rather than expressed through helpful explanations and vision-casting of God’s design.

Don’t think about a red elephant (no this has nothing to do with Alabama football).

Of course, what are you thinking about but a red elephant? While we need to know God’s no’s and don’ts as stated in Scripture, focusing on what He prohibits is insufficient in itself in aiding us in our pursuit of purity as Christ-followers.

If I am in a dating relationship and am constantly focusing my attention on not having sex with my boyfriend, it increases my desire to have sex with him because I am devoting so much mental energy to not doing it. Something about being told “no” just makes us want to do it more.

We see this in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3). God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat of any tree in the Garden except the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:16-17). God told them “no,” and as always, His “no” was in their best interest. If they had heeded His command, sin and death would not have entered the world (at least not at that point in time). But when tempting them, Satan questioned God’s character and the goodness of His “no.”

Isn’t this true of all of us when we want to do something authority prohibits us from doing? We question their goodness, their care for us, and their love. We question whether or not we can trust them and whether they are holding out on us. God created this tree and commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of it because He wanted them to learn about good and evil on His terms without having to experience evil. But instead of focusing on what God had provided, they focused on what God was withholding from them. As a result, they chose to disobey God and to experience evil for themselves, which opened the proverbial Pandora’s box and let sin, sickness, and death loose into the world. When you look at God’s commands, do you think that He is withholding from you, or do you trust in His infinite wisdom and that His “no” is in your best interest?

So think about a pink elephant with black polka dots.

Instead of focusing on what you should not do, direct your thoughts to God’s design and to what He has for you. Whether married or single, God has a plan for your sexuality, and let me free you by telling you truth from Scripture – to be a sexual being is not sinful. What is sinful is for you to act in any way outside of God’s design. This might blow your mind, but did you ever stop to think that Jesus Himself was a sexual being? The Son of God became a man – a man who had desires and who was tempted, but unlike you and me, Jesus did not sin. I bring this up because I think many Christians feel ashamed for having sexual desires. As one writer states, “A person who is wrongly ashamed of being a sexual creature with sexual desires will quickly feel overwhelmed and helpless because he’s trying to overcome more than just lust – he’s trying to stop being human!” (Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not The Problem [Lust Is]).

Let me be clear, God’s design for human sexuality involves one man and one woman united in marriage. So when I write about God creating us as sexual beings with sexual desires, I must point out that our desires can be tainted by sin. To be a sexual being – to be human – is not a sin, but as humans, our thoughts, affections, and will are all tainted by sin. I agree with John Piper’s definition of lust being sexual desire minus honor and holiness (“Battling the Unbelief of Lust”). In short, any desire for someone or something outside of God’s design is lust. Therefore, lust includes viewing porn, having premarital or extramarital sex (or emotional affairs), engaging in sexual fantasy, or pursuing homosexuality (and this is just a short list).

I recognize that I still have not fully addressed the opening question about what it looks like for us to be spiritual and sexual beings, but come back tomorrow for part two of “Sex & the Christian Woman” as we look at sexuality, singleness, and marriage.

Are You a New or Expecting Parent?

Welcome to the World FlyerAre you a new parent? Are you expecting a child? Are you in the process of adopting or fostering? If so, our Preschool Ministry invites you to a special dinner for New & Expecting Parents on Sunday, February 8, from 4:00-5:30pm in the Student Building. Enjoy fellowship with other parents and learn more about what to expect in Preschool Ministry. For more information and to RSVP, contact Kimberly DeLoach at kdeloach@brookhills.org

Have You Heard About RightNow Media?

RNM_logo_Orange

Yesterday in all three Worship Gatherings, we introduced our faith family to RightNow Media, which is a FREE digital resource library with thousands of videos our church members can use for individual study, small group, or family worship. For more information, watch this video about all that RightNow has to offer.

If you are a part of The Church at Brook Hills and did not receive a RightNow email invitation yesterday, you can either visit this site or contact rightnow@brookhills.org to request access.

Apps for RightNow are also available for both Apple and Android devices.

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: Meet Our Women’s Small Group Leaders

This past Sunday, we had a training for our Adult Small Group Leaders, and while this is not all of our women’s small group leaders or all of our women’s leadership team, you can at least see some of the wonderful people who are on the front lines of women’s ministry at The Church at Brook Hills.

Bottom L-R: Deanna Newman, Martha Martin, Sue Mooney, & Joy Hardy. Top L-R: Tammy Anderson, Ashley Chesnut, Sharon Green, Jan Rowland, Beth Gilbert, Staci Caldwell, Dana Bussey, Dawn Stephens, Carla Garikes, Andrea Tice, Roxie Kelley, & Margaret Stewart

Bottom L-R: Deanna Newman, Martha Martin, Sue Mooney, & Joy Hardy.
Top L-R: Tammy Anderson, Ashley Chesnut, Sharon Green, Jan Rowland, Beth Gilbert, Staci Caldwell, Dana Bussey, Dawn Stephens, Carla Garikes, Andrea Tice, Roxie Kelley, & Margaret Stewart

Why I’m In a Mom Time Group

Today’s post was written by Brook Hills member, Angie Trantham.

Overwhelming events that happen to us all – the death of a parent, the loss of a child through miscarriage, loss of jobs, finding jobs, financial crisis, hospitalization of a child, marriage crisis, extended family issues, a major car wreck, surgery, the flu, the whole family having the flu – I have walked through them all this fall with an amazing group of women. These women are my sisters, my prayer warriors, my encouragement and the example that points me to Jesus.

Our Mom Time group started just like any other. We met, we

Angie (left) with Mohana (right), her Mom Time small group leader

Angie (left) with Mohana (right), her Mom Time small group leader

prayed, we studied, and slowly God knit us together. As the semester progressed, we walked through difficult experiences. However, instead of walking alone we had each other. One member had a car accident and had to have surgery. She has a small child and no family in Birmingham, so she texted us and let us know what happened. By the time her husband made it to the hospital, meals were planned for four days and childcare was worked out if she needed it. Someone else had the flu over Christmas and hadn’t finished Christmas shopping, but she didn’t have to worry because one of us did it for her.

Community is something we all need, and this has never been more evident to me as during this season. If you are looking for a community of women who will love you, encourage you and meet you right where you are, I encourage you to join a Mom Time group this month.

If you would like to join a Mom Time Small Group, contact Ashley Chesnut at achesnut@brookhills.org. These groups will start on Tuesday, January 27, and meet from 10-noon on the 3rd floor of the church. Childcare is available, but to make a childcare reservation, contact Mary Cannon at mcannon@brookhills.org by January 20.

We will also have two Coffee & Connection opportunities where you can meet several of our small group leaders face-to-face:

  • Tuesday, January 20, from 9:30am-noon in the Student Building (a brunch)
  • Sunday, January 25, from 4:00-5:30pm in Room 130.

For more information about Coffee & Connection, visit this site.

The Good Hand of God

Today’s post was written by Brook Hills member, Vickie Margene.

designEzra has never been on my short list of preferred books of the Bible and definitely not on my theoretical list of New Year’s resolutions. (Quite frankly, I gave up that practice years ago due to a severe lack of measurable success.) And I’ve read Ezra at least three times now, if my reading through the Bible plans held firm, which I believe they did. However, this is the first time I really seem to have connected with it. Several times this past week, I noticed variations of that key phrase “the hand of God was upon him,” and I considered what that must be like.

Ezra is a history book, taking us into captivity with God’s rebellious people, but revealing how he worked to bring them back to Jerusalem, back to the temple, and back to himself. Perhaps the first step was the most amazing, for God intervened in the heart and mind of Cyrus of Persia, suggesting that a wise leader would not disregard the god of a deeply religious people living among his own, especially not a god like Jehovah. So he ordered men to return to Jerusalem and start the process which would re-institute the worship of the One True God. Therefore, the task Ezra undertook was a great one, and there was opposition. But the good hand of his God was upon him, and he headed for Jerusalem, unprotected by the resources of Cyrus and loaded with the riches needed to rebuild the temple. That good hand protected them along the journey, equipped them for the task, and enlightened them in their desire to follow God’s leading.

And we – also strangers living separated from our heavenly home – find ourselves subject to God-ordained leadership which may not truly know our faith. But we too must be confident that the good hand of our God is upon us and upon those leaders. We, therefore, enjoy his protection, his strength, and his enlightenment. Like Ezra but in our own time, we are called to build God’s church, steward His resources, and to reach out for a people who will know God, study His Word, and live as His Son lived, even in the face of opposition, but always under the good hand of our God.

2015 Bible Reading Plan

For-the-Love-of-God

January 1 begins year two of our church’s journey through a two-year Bible Reading Plan and a sermon series called For the Love of God. This year, we’ll re-read the New Testament and Psalms (in a different order than last year), and we’ll finish the Old Testament (Ezra-Malachi). To download the 2015 Bible Reading Plan, click here. You can also keep up with the daily readings via our church’s mobile app.

Why is it important to follow the Bible Reading Plan? Our sermons are based on the weekly readings. Most Small Group discussions follow the sermons and the Bible reading. Plus, it builds unity and continuity for our faith family.

But what if I struggle with keeping up? If you’re like me, you faced some challenges in trying to keep up with the Bible Reading Plan in 2014. I’m a slow mover when it comes to studying Scripture, so two chapters a day is not my preferred method of study. Did I get behind sometimes (or most of the time)? Yes. Did it annoy my Type A, perfectionist self that I could not catch up on all of the readings that I missed? Yes! But don’t let missing a day or getting behind keep you from opening God’s Word. Reality check – you’re probably not going to do this perfectly. Find a method that works for you, but dig into Scripture. If you have questions about how to study the Bible, this Guide to Personal Worship is extremely helpful and will get you started.

What if I need help understanding what I’m reading each day? Insert the Superman theme song here because we have two resources that can assist you in this.

  • The first is volume two of For the Love of God by D.A. Carson. He specifically wrote this devotional to follow the M’Cheyne Bible Calendar, which is the reading plan our church is using, and each day’s reading is accompanied with a one page devotional to aid in reflection on the passage. Copies of this book are available at the BrookStore for $13, or you can download the pdf for free from this site.
  • We also write commentary for each week’s reading that is included in both our Small Group Guide and our Faith Family Worship Guide (use this resource to talk with your preschoolers, kids, and teens about the weekly readings). You can download the Small Group Guide by clicking on the link associated with each sermon at this site, and the Faith Family Worship Guide can be downloaded from the Weekly Resources portion of the church website.

There are always going to be reasons for why we can’t or shouldn’t do something, but if growing in our relationship with God is truly important to us, then we will make time to open His Word and hear from Him. We make time for what we want to make time for. So whether or not you perfectly observe the Bible Reading Plan, will you make time for God in 2015? If so, what’s your game plan? How will you spend time with Him? Where will you do it? When will you do it? What do you need to get started? Let this be a year of growth where you close the year at a deeper place with God than when you started.

Best of 2014 Blog Posts

What have been the ten most read blog posts on BH Women in 2014? Drumroll, please!

10. “Bobblehead Believers”

9. “Cookies for the Nations” by Molly McGuire

8. “Lessons Learned in Hospitality” by Heather Platt

7. “Women Should Be Silent? Is that Really What Paul is Saying?”

6. “BH Kids Worship CD”

5. “Adoption and God’s Sovereignty” by Jenny Riddle

4. “Community in the Midst of Crisis” by Linda Hall

3. “DP-Day Plus One”

2. “Self or Surrender?” by April Allen

1. “Chat with Priscilla Shirer on 50 Shades of Grey”

Thank you for following and contributing to the BH Women Blog in 2014. We look forward to more posts in 2015!

If you are interested in submitting a blog post and are a Brook Hills member, please contact Ashley Chesnut at achesnut@brookhills.org for more information.

Why Advent?

Advent wasn’t even something on my radar until seminary. I grew up in church – even have a parent in ministry, and while our church would sing Christmas carols and have sermons about the birth of Christ in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, my only frame of reference for Advent was the calendars our local Wal-mart sold that contained a piece of chocolate to eat each day leading up to December 25th.

Simply put, advent refers to the coming of an important person, and the weeks leading up to Christmas present a special opportunity for believers to remember the advent of Jesus Christ. If we’re not careful, we can easily get caught up in the accouterments of the season. Trust me, I’m more on the spectrum of Buddy the Elf when it comes to anything Christmas (the Christmas CDs got pulled out on October 25, I decorated before Thanksgiving, I’m already done with my Christmas shopping – don’t hate!, Hallmark Christmas movies are watched each week…), so I can easily fall into wrapping, shopping, caroling, and baking without remembering. So how can we avoid the trap of Christmas commercialism this season? How can we remember Christ this Christmas?

Whether you are single, married, have children, or don’t have children, included below are ways you can participate in Advent this holiday season.

  • Advent Devotions – This has become a practice for me the past couple of years. In addition to my Bible reading, I read a short devotional in the The Expected Onemorning that points me to the reasons for Christ’s first coming and the anticipation of His second coming. If you want recommendations, Scott James, one of our Elders at Brook Hills, recently published an advent guide – The Expected One – that is available for purchase, and it’s a fantastic resource. Other recommended devotionals include: John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, Gordon Conwell’s Journey to the Manger (you can get this one via daily email updates), and Christ Fellowship Church’s Sing in Exultation (this is our church plant in Homewood).
  • Advent Candles – This involves 5 candles (3 purple, 1 pink or blue, and 1 white) that are lit on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas signifying Christ as the “light of the world” (Isa. 9:2; Jn. 1:1-9; 8:12; 11:9-10). One candle is lit on the first Sunday, two on the second Sunday, etc.
    A friend of mine who is a kindergarten teacher at a private school is using the Advent candles and wreath to help her class remember Christ at Christmas.

    A friend of mine who is a kindergarten teacher at a private school is using the Advent candles and wreath to help her class remember Christ at Christmas.

    with the fifth candle (the white one) being lit on Christmas Day. What do these signify? The tradition started in the 19th century when Protestant pastor Johann Hinrich Wichern starting using a wreath and candles during Advent with the children at the mission school in Hamburg, Germany. Lighting a candle doesn’t do much in itself, but you can pair it with Scripture readings, prayers of thanksgiving and praise, singing Christmas hymns, and conversations about the significance of the Scripture readings.

    • Week 1 – Light a purple candle (purple being the color of royalty) and accompany it with verses about the expectation, hope, and prophecy regarding the Messiah’s first coming.
    • Week 2 – Light two purple candles and read Scripture about the preparation of the Messiah’s coming such as the angel appearing to Mary or John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus (Matt. 3:1-12; Mk. 1:1-8; Lk.1) .
    • Week 3 – Light two purple candles and a pink (or blue) candle to express the joy of Jesus’ birth announcement by the angels to the shepherds (Lk. 2:8-20).
    • Week 4 – Light three purple candles and the pink candle to represent the love of God in sending His Son and the peace Christ brings (Isa. 9:8; Jn. 3:16-17; Rom. 5:1).
    • Christmas Eve or Christmas Day – Light all five candles with the white candle symbolizing Christ as the spotless Lamb of God who takes away our sin (Isa. 52:13-53:12; Jn. 1:29).
  • Advent Calendar – This can be a daily, concrete reminder for us. As you anticipate opening each flap on the calendar (and maybe eating the candy there if you get such a calendar…), you can remember the longing Israel felt as it looked for the Messiah’s coming and how we long for Christ’s return. You can incorporate a Scripture verse for each day, a prophecy about Christ’s first or second coming, a verse to memorize, a song to sing – the ideas are endless!

Be creative (or go to Pinterest to see what ideas you can copy from others). Use these ideas. Don’t use these ideas. The point is to remember Christ and the mission of the manger.

*For more about remembering Christ in your holiday traditions, I commend to you Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions (for pdf of the book, click here). Also, keep up with A Manger with a Mission, our Advent sermon sermons at Brook Hills, at this site.

Women’s Gathering Recap

photo-4 copy

Because JS and KJ couldn’t see everyone via Skype, we took a few pics of the ladies at the gathering to send to them.

This past Thursday, we had our fall women’s gathering, and JJ from our African church-planting team shared about how God led her and her family to work among the Arundo in the Horn of Africa. JS and KJ, the two other girls on this team, woke up at 4am their time to join us via Skype and to share about their calling as well as some stories about how God is working among their people group.

Horn of Africa

Our church commissioned JD and JJ three years ago, and this is their first visit home since moving to the Horn of Africa. They’ll head back to rejoin their team after the first of the year. The Arundo include 10 million people in North Africa and are almost entirely Muslim, although some hold to a mix of Islamic and animistic beliefs. They live by planting crops or tending herds of animals such as camels, goats, or sheep, and the people are divided into clans and sub-clans and are among the top five unreached people groups in the world. About half of the population relies on outside aid for survival, and the Arundo struggle for food and access to clean water and have great need for medical care and veterinary services for their herds.

At the gathering, our ladies also got the opportunity to pray for our African church-planting team, and below are some specific prayer requests regarding JD and JJ, JS and KJ, and the Arundo people.

During the gathering, our ladies got the opportunity to lay hands and pray for JJ.

One specific women’s project that JS and KJ are attempting to get approved involves making and distributing feminine products to the Arundo women. At this point, Arundo girls miss a week of school each week because of a lack of access to products, which disrupts their life and their ability to learn, especially since female mutilation is also prevalent with these women. Pray for access to the supplies needed to make these reusable supplies in country (think bikini bottoms with an insert that can be removed and washed) and for the government to approve this project. This project would provide for a basic physical need, allow the church-planting team access to more of the Arundo people, and be a way that the women on this team could build relationships with the Arundo women and their families.

Prayer Requests for JD and JJ

  • JD and JJ are entering a season of special moments with family but also sad days, mourning the times when we will not be here during those special moments. They are entering a time of many goodbyes as they look at heading back overseas soon.
  • Pray that JJ’s health issues will clear up so that they can receive medical clearance soon to return to the field.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment as they move forward in their adoption process. Pray that they will rest and wait on the Lord each step of the way.
  • Pray for IS and MJ (JD and JJ’s children, 4 and almost 2 years old) with many upcoming transitions. Pray for grace and understanding as once again many things around them are changing. Pray that they feel stable and cared for in these days.
  • Pray that they will not be anxious about tomorrow but will trust in the Father’s perfect timing and care.

Prayer Requests for JS and KJ

  • Pray for JS and KJ in these days as the enemy’s attacks are strong. Praise the Father that they have had amazing time in the community and been able to share lots of truth. As we see the Spirit opening doors, the enemy is working to keep our team down.
  • Pray that they will joyfully surrender their wills to the Father and daily die to themselves.
  • Pray that they will rest and abide in His Word and that they will remain disciplined to meditate on truth and hide it in their hearts so that they do not believe lies of the enemy.
  • Pray that they will have joy in all circumstances and fight against the enemy’s tactics to discourage them.
  • Pray that they will be intentional each day to listen to the Holy Spirit, seek the Father’s guidance, and walk in wisdom and discernment in all their interactions with their people.
  • Pray that they will cast their burdens on the Father daily (i.e., the heaviness of the work, the seeming lack of response of the people, and anxiety about the future).
  • Pray for endurance to press on.

Prayer Requests for the Arundo People

  • There is a recurring theme of people telling the team how much they fear death and have no assurance. Pray that they will see that Jesus Christ is the only answer to their fear and hope in life after death.
  • Some of the people have been questioned concerning their relationships to the team. Pray that the Father would protect their lives and the team’s access to them and not allow them to be persecuted because of the team.
  • Pray specifically for Sherri and Alan. The team has shared truth with both of them, and they have been willing to listen. She is expecting their first child. Pray that as a family they would seek the Father and that they would come to know the Son.
  • Pray that the Father would reveal Himself to the Arundo people in dreams and visions.
  • Sandy is reading the Book with us daily. Pray that the Father’s words would penetrate her heart and that the Holy Spirit would open her eyes to truth.
  • Pray that the team will gain greater access to the Arundo in the months to come.