As Promised...the Story Behind our New Adventure...

In my recent "Diving In" post, I shared that we were "anticipating with much excitement what God is going to do as He leads us into a whole new adventure..."  I promised some friends that I would share the story behind that new adventure here, as it's all come about so suddenly that we haven't had an opportunity to talk to many people about it in person.  

On July 2, 2011, we made our first trip out to Grace Baptist Church in Lavaca.  That night, I posted this on Facebook: 

Wow. Went out to support and encourage our mission church, Grace Baptist, tonight, but ended up super-encouraged ourselves! What a blessing to catch up with some old friends, meet a few new ones, and fellowship with some of our own church family...not to mention enjoying some fun music and feasting on wonderful food. :)

Then in November, we went back to help with their Community Thanksgiving Meal.  I posted this on Facebook that weekend, along with an album of photos:

Grace Baptist Church held their first annual Community Thanksgiving Meal on Thanksgiving Day. We had a wonderful time helping Bro. Gary and Becky and other GBC folks prepare and serve. It was such a blessing to be part of their ministry, and we are already looking forward to helping out again next year!

From the time we were there last July, and then even more after we were there on Thanksgiving, Billy and I have felt our hearts pulling toward Grace Baptist and the work Bro. Gary and Becky are doing there.  We've talked several times about the fact that we wished that we could be two places at once...at Oak Cliff and Grace Lavaca.  Our thought  was that "maybe someday" God would call us out there.  But in the meantime, Oak Cliff was our much-loved church and we couldn't imagine leaving.

Then a little over a month ago, Bro. Kent made a comment in a sermon about sending some people over to Grace...asking some people to go spend some time helping bolster up the work there.  Although his comment was part of a hypothetical example, it stirred something in Billy and I both at the time.  There were so many reasons we couldn't imagine leaving Oak Cliff that it was still a "maybe someday" thing...but the pull was getting stronger.

Three weeks ago yesterday, Bro. Kent was out of town, and Bro. Gary was our Sunday night supply preacher.  As we visited with Bro. Gary and Becky that night, God again began to stir our hearts.  There was nothing in particular said that night that it can be traced to, but very suddenly and unexpectedly we realized that God was no longer saying "maybe someday"...instead He seemed to be saying "now".

There were several things that had held us back from making a move in the past year:  Bro. Kent's preaching.  Adult choir.  Our church family, which truly has been family to us for so many years...including one of my very dearest friends.  And...my Sunday School class.  How in the world could I leave what I knew had been my calling for the past two years, the class I'd planned to teach at least until Ammah Grace graduated?!  How could I leave my precious Sunday School girls?

Not to mention the fact that we knew it would be really hard on our two oldest.  For the little girls, it would be an adventure.  But the older two had developed deep, deep roots at Oak Cliff...roots for which we were immensely grateful.  How could we tear them away from those roots?

But as we prayed and sought God's will in the next couple of weeks, God just kept reminding us that His ways are higher than ours, and far beyond our understanding.  He reminded us over and over, through His Word and through wise counsel (particularly from both our current and future pastors), that our job was to obey...and through that obedience would come blessing for our family, for Grace, and for Oak Cliff.  He reminded us over and over that He loves our children even more than we do, and that HIS plan for them is best.  He also gently reminded me that He is more than able to call another teacher who will love my Sunday School girls as much as I do. :)

As He was reminding us of all those things, He was also giving us an unexplainable peace about leaving the church we love so much, and an almost uncontainable excitement about the church He was calling us to.  He began teaching me some amazing things about obedience as a JOY rather than a drudgery.

What a whirlwind!  Two weeks after we first began to ask ourselves if "maybe someday" might be "now", we were sure.  We've had lots of very sudden, unexpected course changes in the past 8 years, most of which have been very traumatic.  It was an amazing thing to have a sudden, unexpected course change that we could be excited about!

The excitement is definitely tinged with sadness.  I managed not to cry while saying good-bye to my Sunday School class yesterday and then got teary walking into the choir loft for the last Sunday morning.  But then sitting at Grace last night listening to Bro. Gary teach from James, I got teary all over again realizing how blessed we are to be part of what God is doing out there.  My Facebook status last night when we got home pretty much summed it up:

What a day! We are ending one chapter in our lives and beginning a new one. Lots of memories, lots of anticipation, lots of emotions...cried some sad tears this morning and then cried some joyful ones tonight. Excited about the new adventure God has called us to, and overwhelmed with gratitude that God has given us not one but two church families that we love so dearly. We are richly blessed!

Definitely richly blessed!  And looking forward to the next stage of the journey.  And thankful to know that our awesome God already has it completely mapped out...not just since last July, but since before the foundation of the world!  What an amazing thought.

Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
~ Psalm 139: 1-6; 16-18

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 
~Isaiah 55: 8-12


Who Am I?

Woke up with this Scripture and this song on my heart this morning, and closing the day with them on my heart tonight.  Amazed that He loves us, that He is intricately involved in every detail of our lives, that He has had a plan for each one of our lives since before the beginning of time.  What a thrill to be able to see glimpses of His glory and bits and pieces of His plan.  And then the joy when He allows us to be part of that plan...learning so much these days about seeing obedience as a joy rather than a chore.  

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babies and infants,
You have established strength because of your foes,
To still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, 
The moon and the stars, which You have set in place,
What is man that you are mindful of him, 
And the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
And crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen, 
And also the beasts of the field, 
The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, 
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
~Psalm 8

"It's an Atom Bomb"

"Would we not more earnestly flee if we knew our homes will blow up, and our lives will be ruined? Pornography is no cherry bomb; it’s an atom bomb."  

The above quote, taken from R.C. Sproul's article, "Running with the Bulls" is so very, very true.  As one whose family has not only been touched, but devastated, by the atom bomb of pornography, I agree with every word of Sproul's article.  I cannot recommend enough that you click through and read it.  (I was actually in the middle of writing another blog post when I came across this article and decided I needed to drop what I was working on and post this first.)

The effects of pornography go so much further than we often realize...not only destroying marriages and ministries, but destroying lives through victimizing the subjects, through descent into more and more perverted behavior, and in many cases, as Sproul mentioned, through involvement in criminal behavior.   

We often think, "That could never happen to us."  But it can.  Someone very dear to us is currently in federal prison after being convicted of child pornography charges.  If it happened to our family, it can happen to *any* family.

And for those who would argue that pornography is a "private matter", let me assure you, that just as an atom bomb wreaks destruction for miles, the "private behavior" (which often isn't so private after all) wreaks destruction on everyone around.  

There is hope for those caught in the horrible snare of pornography.  There is hope for the victims left scarred in its wake.  God forgives, comforts, heals, and restores.  But oh, how much better to avoid the devastation to begin with!  How much better to guard our eyes and our hearts, to be filled with the Spirit, and to seek the things above instead of earthly things.  

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 
~Ephesians 5:15-21

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
~Colossians 3:1-4

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Oven-Free Friday ~ No-Bake Granola

As promised in Monday's post, today is Oven-Free Friday at Ponderings of an Elect Exile.  And the timing is good...with the predicted high for tomorrow being 107 (*cough* *choke* *sputter*), even if we did have a working oven, we wouldn't be using it! :)  

I ran across this granola recipe early this week and decided it sounded simple and good.  It was simple (if a bit sticky :)), and it was a big hit here.  I'm definitely adding it to our snack rotation, and I'm making plans to try some variations in the future. 

I tweaked the recipe just a bit (and made a bit of a blooper, which turned out okay :)):

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 cups oats
2 cups crispy rice cereal
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 T chocolate chips (or, if you are like me, just shake some out of the bag...and end up shaking out a few more than you meant to!)  
In a large bowl, stir oats and rice cereal together and set aside. 
In a small pan, melt butter, honey and brown sugar together over medium high heat until it comes to a low boil.{I accidentally dumped 1/4 of a cup of white sugar in before I realized what I was doing.  I just reduced the honey accordingly.}  Reduce the heat and cook 2 minutes. 
Pour in vanilla and stir. 
Pour over dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into lightly greased small jelly roll pan press to about 3/4 inch thickness.  If your pan is too large, push to one side to ensure adequate thickness and packing.  You want it to be well-packed. 
Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press down lightly. {The original recipe called for mini-chips.  I ended up using a combo of regular milk and semi-sweet chips because that was what I had.  The milk chocolate chips were a bit melted in my hot kitchen, so I attempted to spread them instead of pressing.  This made a bit of a mess, but it all tasted good in the end. :)}
 Cool on a countertop to room temperature for two hours or until the chocolate chips are set before cutting into bars. Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  
Note from original recipe..."If your granola bars don’t seem to be staying together when you cut them, you may have made them too thin or you didn’t pack them in tight enough. Stick them in the fridge for 20 minutes and that should help keep them together. {Be sure not to keep them in there too long or else they’ll become super hard!} The next time you make them, try reducing the butter to 3 tablespoons and really packing them down."
I'm looking forward to trying these with various add-ins...I'll try to come back and update with results!  in the meantime, I'd love to hear about your favorite oven-free recipe!


A Repost and the Return of Oven-Free Fridays...

We had this dish again for supper tonight...I had planned to try a new crock pot recipe today, but I woke up not feeling well, so at Bayley's request, we fell back on an old stand-by.   I realized while we were dumping everything in the crock-pot that it's been forever since I have posted an Oven-Free Friday post, and I've been thinking I need to get back to that.  Soo...since we tried a new no-bake granola bar recipe today that was a big hit, I decided this would be a good week to get back in the swing of things with OFF.  So keep an eye out on Friday!

Here's the original post from last October...

When our oven went out several months ago, we decided that we would hold off on repairing/replacing it for the moment and just "do without" for a while.  We were headed into the heat of summer (when we don't use the oven anyway in our un-airconditioned kitchen), and we're in a state of decision-making at the moment as to our future plans for this house (putting any serious financial outlays on hold for the time being).  Besides...with a stove, an electric skillet, two crock pots, an electric roaster, a microwave, a toaster oven (provided by a friend :)), a bread machine (which I haven't used in a while but plan to pull out soon), and a "Kitchen Kettle multi-cooker/steamer/deep fryer", who is really going to miss an oven?  

Well, I do miss the oven, just a bit. Although we *have* finally figured out a way to cook frozen pizzas (oddly enough, one of the things that my children miss most about not having an oven...go figure...:)), and we've learned that you can, in a pinch, bake cookies in a toaster oven,  I miss being able to throw a casserole in a Pyrex an hour before supper or pop a batch of muffins in the oven for breakfast.  

However, for the most part, it's been fine.  We're trying new recipes and getting more creative in the kitchen, which is always a good thing.  And we are learning that there are lots of alternatives to cooking in the oven.  
We've tried a few new things already, and I have a file full of ideas ready to try.  In the interest of motivating myself to actually turn those ideas into food on the table,  I've decided that I am going to start a new feature here on the blog..."Oven-Free Fridays".  I'll be chronicling some of our successes (and probably a few failures along the way) in oven-free cooking.  I'm even considering trying my hand at creating a nifty little "Oven-Free Fridays" button. :)  

And for "Oven Free Fridays" debut recipe..."Hit it Out of the Park Chicken".  My crock pot has always been a trusty friend in the kitchen, but it is getting even more of a workout these days.  I've been scouring on-line crock pot sites for ideas and come up with a list I want to try.   I'm hoping to attempt crock pot banana bread today (I'm skeptical, but an urgent early-fall craving for banana bread is convincing me to give it a try), and I plan to try out crock pot brownies later in the week.  

Tuesday, though, my crock pot project was totally spur of the moment.  Rather than poring through the file of recipes I have saved, I was sneaking a quick peek at Pinterest in between activities, and I happened upon this recipe.  I realized that I had all the ingredients, I hadn't planned supper yet, and I needed a quick, easy meal because I needed to get out the door right after supper.  

So...I tossed the cream cheese, cream of chicken soup, Italian dressing mix, and frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot and set it to high.  I didn't even stir the sauce ingredients up in advance like the recipe suggests.  (I did stir them well after it had cooked for a bit, though.)  

YUM.  The original recipe calls this "crock pot chicken and rice".  We've decided to rename it "Hit it Out of the Park Chicken", because it was definitely a home run at our house (and I have too many "chicken and rice" recipes already. :))  Even one of my very picky children, who had originally said, "I don't want any of that chicken stuff, Mom...I'm not eating that,"  came back later (after I insisted on a thankful bite :)), and said rather meekly, "You were right, Mom, that chicken stuff is really good!"  

LOVE super-easy crock pot recipes that end up being just impossibly better than the sum of their simple ingredients.  Saloon beef is one of our favorites that fits those criteria...it just doesn't seem possible that something that easy can be so amazingly good.  This recipe is another of those.  When I threw it in the crock pot, I was just hoping for simple and edible busy day food.  It turned out to be fabulous!  It's rare that all six members of our family really love something...but everyone raved about this one.  I'm looking forward to making it often this winter...definitely comfort food at it's best. 

The original recipe can be found here.  Here's what I ended up doing:

Hit it Out of the Park Chicken

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 package Italian dressing mix 
5 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

Other than thawing the chicken breasts a bit in the microwave because I realized I was pressed for time to get them fully cooked before I had to be out the door that evening, I just dumped it all in the crock pot and turned it on high.  About 30 minutes later, I stirred the sauce ingredients together.  It cooked on high about 4.5 hours, I think...until the chicken was done/tender.  I shredded the chicken (in a very coarse shred, because I was running late )), and served with rice.  The original recipe said to mix it with the cooked rice, but with my bunch, I decided it was safer to serve it on the side. :)  It would also have been really good over noodles.  


I'd love to hear your favorite "oven-free" recipes...just leave me a comment with a link or recipe!


St. Paul {Guy Penrod} Weekend, Part 4


That was my reaction when I pulled up the "St. Paul {Guy Penrod}Weekend, Part 3" post so that I could start Part 4 and realized...it's been two weeks since I posted part 3!  How did THAT happen?? How did I leave my poor readers hanging there, waiting to see what was at the bottom of that elevator, for two whole weeks??

Well, I know how I did it.  Life has been, well, LIFE, these couple of weeks.  And then some. :)  Hopefully I'll be able to share more about that soon.  And for a lot of reasons, my brain has been mush.  Most of my blogging takes place early in the morning or late in the evening, and lately, even when I haven't been trying to sleep during those times (because for some reason my body is in "wide awake from 2-5 a.m. mode" right now), I haven't been able to string two coherent sentences together by the time I get a chance to blog.  So...for those who've been waiting...I apologize.  And I am really going to TRY to do better.  Although, as I tell my children...no promises, but I will do my best. 

So...in the last installment, we'd FINALLY arrived in St. Paul, weary and waterlogged, gotten settled in our hotel, and then gotten a phone call to come to the lobby.  I'd called Jodie to meet us at the elevator, told the girls to throw jackets on over their pjs, and swiped a bit of lipstick on...as if ANYTHING was going to help after 15 hours in the car and running through a deluge. :)

And when we stepped off  the elevator, we found...


Otherwise known as "The Friends Who Live in our Computers." :-)

These ladies...

Kerri, Sue, and Denise
(Photos taken at the concert the next day.  I was too bedraggled to get the camera out for our initial meeting. :))


Heidi, as I mentioned in Part 2 of this series, is the one who ran across my blog in a Google search for Guy Penrod, and posted the link on a site for those who appreciate Guy's music and ministry. (She was also the promoter who made this concert happen.  She did an amazing job, and the story of God's work in that is truly awesome.  I'm planning for that to be an installment all its own in this series. :))  I then found that site through my stat counter.  To make a long story short from there, we made some very dear friends through that contact.  They had prayed for Jodie when she was caregiving for her MIL, and then when her MIL died last December.  They had prayed for my family when we were trying to find answers when one of our children was experiencing some scary medical issues.  And we had prayed for them as well. 

And now, finally, we were meeting them in person!  

The family of God is an amazing thing.  From the moment we "met" these ladies (who had come from all over the country) in person, we felt like they were long-lost friends. We had already shared with them, prayed for them and been prayed for by them...the fact that we hadn't been in the same room with them didn't seem to matter at all.  Our hearts were already one, and the time we were able to spend with them throughout our weekend in St. Paul was as thrilling to us as the concert itself.  

As exciting as meeting our "new" friends was, the girls were about asleep on their feet.  We left Mrs. Jodie downstairs visiting and went upstairs to get some sleep before the "main event" the next day.  Next installment: CONCERT DAY ARRIVES! 

As I was typing this post, the old Gaither song "The Family of God" kept playing through my head.  I decided to look for a video, and I found a "golden oldie".  If you are like me and haven't heard the story behind this song before, a word of warning...grab some tissue before you watch.  What a blessing!


Diving In!

Loving the Steven Curtis Chapman song "Dive" all over again...

Anticipating with much excitement what God is going to do as He leads us into a whole new adventure...

Casting our cares upon Him as we deal with the discomforts that accompany change...even good change!

Starting a new journal to record what God is teaching and doing during this next stage of the journey...

Basking in His mercies that are new every morning!

"Diving in!"


Not "Fifty Shades" or "Magic Mike"...But the "More" We Were Created For!

(Sunday 07.08.12)
I really wasn't going to post about "the book" (Fifty Shades of Grey) or "the movie" (Magic Mike).  There has been much said recently about both, including quite a bit by people I felt were saying it much better than I could.  This morning, however, when I found myself headed into multiple paragraphs in a comment on a link on a friend's Facebook wall, I realized that I apparently was going to post after all. 

My friend Tauna (whose blog you really need to check out if you haven't already!) posted the link to Joshua Harris's blog post on her Facebook wall last night.  I had already read both his post and the post he referenced by Melissa Jenna (as well as posts by a few other bloggers), but as I read the comments this morning, I was stunned all over again by the reactions.  

One of the best posts I've read on "the book" is this post by Dannah Gresh on the True Woman site.   One of the commenters on the Josh Harris post mentioned the backlash in the comments on the Dannah Gresh post.  I had not read the comments, but I was shocked as I began to read this morning.  Not shocked at comments by those who don't claim the name of Christ...those I would understand defending such things...but shocked at comments by people who do claim a relationship with Christ and yet defend this book.  

This was my comment on Tauna's link this morning...

What I cannot understand is how there can be ANY controversy about this book or this movie among those who profess to be Christians. What a heartbreaking example of Satan's powers of deception. So many people have no idea the "slippery slope" of porn and how devastatingly dangerous it can become very quickly...regardless of the gender of the one who partakes. I had read the True Woman post referenced in the comments of the Josh Harris post earlier this week, but hadn't read the comments. Wow. I am absolutely floored....although I shouldn't be. This is the power of the enemy and I am convinced that porn...in all it's stages and variations...is one of his strongest weapons in this age. *Sigh* I think I've pulled my soapbox out and hopped on...I had said that I wasn't going to blog on this, because there are already so many good blog posts out there on this topic, but I'm afraid I feel one coming on...because I am flooded with thoughts on this. One I have already shared, though, is this, " I want to be so caught up in the "more" that God created me for that I don't have time for books or movies like these to even be on my radar."

(Monday 07.09.12)

I had lots of thoughts on the book, the movie, and the posts/comments about them when I started this post early yesterday.  I've struggled with saying what I want and need to say all day.  There are many specific, random issues I have with the book, the movie, and those who are defending them.  For instance, I've seen several people comment that men as well as women should read the book, because supposedly, through the main character (who uses pain, dominance, and bondage in his relationships with women), men can learn how to truly love and romance their wives.  

As more than one pastor of mine has said, there is a good Greek word for that...HOGWASH!! 

Men are not to follow the example of the hero in an erotic novel to know how to love their wives...they are to follow the example of Christ in the way that He loves His bride, the Church. 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,  that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word,  so that He might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of His body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33

There are other specific issues I could address, but as I've prayed over this post the last two days, I've taught a Sunday School lesson and heard two sermons that really summed it all up.  (Interestingly, the two sermons were by different guest preachers yesterday in the absence of our pastor.  Both sermons tied in perfectly with the youth Sunday School lesson yesterday morning, and with this post.)

The Bible says that lust is sin.  The Bible says that sex outside of marriage is sin.  That's the starting point for this next part of the post.   For those who don't believe the Bible is the true, inerrant, holy Word of God...well, I'm glad to have you reading, and hope you'll stay and read some more, and I'd love to chat with you via the comments or email about that.  However, this particular post really isn't for you.  Because until a person realizes the depth of their sin against the holy and righteous Creator of the universe, repents of that sin, and accepts the gift of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus...the rest really doesn't matter much.  If you haven't taken that step, I'd love to chat with you about it!

But my focus in this post is Christians...those who claim to have been convicted of sin, turned to God in repentance, and accepted that gift of eternal life...those who claim the name of Christ.  

For those who truly are Christ-followers, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, and Jesus Christ has become the Lord of our lives.  Our Sunday School lesson yesterday was on Romans 7:20-8:9...Victory over sin and death through the Holy Spirit.  Paul says:

Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  (Romans 7:20-8:9)

The girls and I discussed that there is a war going on, as Paul says in these verses, in every Christian...a war between our new self and our old sin nature.  But...Jesus Christ has already won the war through His death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit helps us to live in that victory. 

But how do we live in that victory?  The key, according to this lesson, is our mind-set...our way of thinking, developed by what we make the focus of our lives.  As these verses say, "those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit."

If we set our minds on things of the flesh, our flesh will control us.  If we set our minds on things of the Spirit, the Spirit controls us.  If we are truly Christians, by relationship, and not only by name, we are to have our hearts set on the things of God, not on things of this world.  The more we feed our flesh, the less sensitive we are going to be to the prompting and conviction of the Holy Spirit.  This gives Satan greater opportunity to deceive us...to make things that are sin look beautiful and appealing.  That is what he has been doing since the Garden of Eden...making things that God calls evil look good.  That deception is obvious in the discussion in Christian circles about this book and this movie. 

I shared this story with the girls yesterday, not for the first time.  Many years ago, when I was in college, Gilbert and Susan Baker were my Sunday School teachers.  There are many things that have stuck with me all these years from my time in their class, but one of the biggest was about gray areas.  Gilbert quoted 1 John 1:5...God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.  Gray, he pointed out, is white with a bit of black added...light with a bit of darkness.  But "in Him is no darkness at all."  So...if it is gray...it is not of God.  We are to "walk in the light, as He is in the light" (1 John 1:7)  And if we back up a verse there, He says that "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth." 

After that Sunday School lesson, I went into not one, but two, sermons that tied in perfectly. I love it when God does that!  The first was taken from the book of Judges and was on the importance of the King (Jesus) being on the throne of our hearts...in other words, the importance of His Lordship in our lives...and the catastrophic results of sin when we do not allow Him that Lordship.  

The second sermon was taken from John 4.  Bro. Gary quoted Walter Chantry, author of Today's Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic, saying, "Only a small portion of those who 'make decisions' evidence the grace of God in a transformed life," and then said, "We've stopped telling people that their sin offends a Holy God."  "We've got to get back to offending people," he pointed out, saying that if the Gospel doesn't step on our toes, something is wrong. 

Two other things that stuck out from Bro. Gary's sermon last night, with this blog post in the back of my mind: 

*Anything that is offensive to God should be offensive to us.

*People who are saved are going to thirst after the things of God.  
Based on those truths: 

1. Sexual immorality is offensive to God; therefore, it should be offensive to us

It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.     1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28 (That applies in the reverse as well.)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness,which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:5-6

2. If we are saved, we are going to thirst after the things of God.  

Another blogger posting on this subject said, "We were made for so much more!"  I commented on her post, " I want to be so caught up in the "more" that God created me for (and I want the same for my children) that I don't have time for books/movies like these to even be on my radar. "  I want to be seeking after Him with all my heart!  I want to be so full of His best for me that everything else fades into complete obscurity.  

The other thing that really struck me yesterday in relation to this post was a song we sang in the morning worship service.   This song by Mark Altrogge so perfectly declares the holiness, glory, beauty, majesty, and righteousness of our God.   How can we even think of filling our minds with the likes of Fifty Shades or Magic Mike in the light of His love and mercy and grace?

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard 
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom?
Who can fathom the depth of Your love?
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty, enthroned above

And I stand, I stand in awe of You
I stand, I stand in awe of You 
Holy God, to whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You

You are beautiful beyond description
Yet God crushed You for my sin
In agony and deep affliction
Cut off that I might enter in
Who can grasp such tender compassion?
Who can fathom this mercy so free?
You are beautiful beyond description
Lamb of God who died for me