5 Ways to Have a God-Glorifying Small Group

Last week as I was shutting down my computer, I noticed a Facebook tag from my dear friend and fellow author/speaker, Pam Farrel. Pam leads a group called Seasoned Sisters, and you’ll be able to read all about how she started this mentoring group for women going through midlife in my new book Mentoring For All Seasons when it releases in September this year! Pam shares in it several stories about being mentored and being a mentor during transition seasons of her life.

Several months ago, Pam told me her Seasoned Sisters group wanted to read and discuss my latest book that Pam endorsed, Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten. They purchased the books, and then I got a message from her that more women wanted to join the group as the word got out how much they were enjoying my book. You know how this encouraged me and warmed my heart since my vision for Forsaken God? was for Christians to make a change for God in our culture by simply remembering how good God has been to them in their own lives. There are discussion questions after each chapter for group study, and the book isn’t just for women: it’s for all Christians!

So back to last week’s Facebook tag. Pam was meeting with her Seasons Sisters and they sent me a live video to say “Hi” and tell me what Forsaken God? has meant to them. Several comments: “Very timely! I don’t want to watch the news; I just want to read this book.” “Forsaken God? will put the headlines in perspective and give you God’s view.” Here’s the short video for you to watch yourself.

One woman said she had given the book to a waitress. I was blessed and encouraged. If you read last week’s blog post 10 Ways to Change Our Culture, you know my heart for motivating Christians to take a stand for God in their sphere of influence. I’m praying some of you thought there was at least one way you would apply to your life.

The Value of Small Groups / Bible Study Groups / Life Groups

Small groups or Bible study groups or life groups, whatever your church calls them, are the perfect place to mature in your faith and encourage each other to take your faith public, as we’re told to do in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

My husband and I met in a small group at Saddleback Church. He was the co-leader of a business group that included men, women, couples, and singles. It was my first experience in a small group, but Dave and I have been leading small groups and support groups (such as Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter) ever since. Sometimes we lead together, other times he might lead a men’s group and I’ll lead a women’s group. We’ve led groups at a mega church like Saddleback, and at the small church in the mountain community where we now live. Our favorite groups are couples groups.

Like every small group, some of our groups ran smoothly with everyone committed, and others had problems that we had to address for the good of the group. Here are five key areas where God taught us through trial and error how to have a small group that glorifies Him and enriches the spiritual life of all the group members.

  1. Create a safe place with confidentiality – Do members of your group feel like the group is a safe place where they can share openly without condemnation, criticism, or worrying that what they say will leave the group?

Prayer time can unintentionally become a gossip session. Members should feel confident that prayer requests or comments made during the meetings are not discussed outside of the group, without permission from all individuals involved.

Spouses should not share stories about each other without receiving permission, whether or not their spouse is present. To keep the group accountable in this area, when a spouse starts to talk about his or her spouse, the leader can say something like, “That sounds like a hubby [or wife] story. Hubby [or wife], do you want us to hear this?” And if he or she says no, then nix the story.

  1. Don’t Try to Fix Each Other – Are members trying to solve each other’s problems or give unsolicited advice?

Members shouldn’t try to speak into each other’s life unless asked to do so. Often a member just wants to share a difficult situation and is solely looking for compassion, understanding, and prayer. The group should listen respectfully, and possibly offer constructive and empathetic comments from their own experience, as long as those thoughts are biblically sound, and above all, encouraging. No quick fixes or “you shoulds.”

Sometimes members with difficult issues can dominate the entire meeting and that might be appropriate if someone is in an immediate crisis. But if this becomes a pattern, the leader/facilitator gently suggests that the member might benefit from speaking with pastors at the church or offer to talk privately and pray with him or her after the group.

  1. Set Clear Expectations and Request Commitment – Is everyone committed and giving priority to meetings and communicating in advance when they aren’t going to attend? Do all members have clear expectations of what they’re going to receive from the study, and are they in concert with the group?

Will it be a social fellowship group vs. a Bible study group, or a combination of the two?

Commitment and making meetings a high priority is imperative. Members shouldn’t have an “I’ll-be-there-if-I-can” attitude. Your goal is to become a spiritual family growing and doing life together, respectful of each other’s time and efforts.

There’s nothing more discouraging as a leader than to prepare for the group and then start receiving the phone calls and emails, often at the last minute, that members aren’t coming. One way to share the commitment and ownership of the group is to pass the facilitating of the group among the members. So it’s not always a leader/members group, but a group with everyone having a part in facilitating the meetings.

Make sure you have a group covenant that clearly states the purpose of the group and allow everyone an opportunity to express his or her expectations. This is also a good place to reemphasize confidentiality and commitment expectations.

  1. Maintain Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit—Do you spend enough time in the Word and let the Holy Spirit lead or are you rushing through studies to reach a goal?

Regardless of the focus or purpose of the group, everyone must be reading from the Bible every meeting. Members need to spend time in God’s Word and in prayer during the meetings and during the week for spiritual growth to occur.

It’s important to end at the agreed expected time so people can plan, but don’t be overly concerned how much material is covered each meeting. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead and expose just the right discussion for growth in everyone’s life.

  1. Encourage Active Group Participation – Is everyone doing his or her outside study material between meetings and participating in the discussion? Do some people never talk and others do all the talking?

It’s important for the health and growth of the group that everyone comes prepared if there is homework or reading between meetings, and that each member has an opportunity to participate in discussion.

A good way to engage people who tend to be quiet is to ask them to read a Scripture, and if it applies to a study question, that’s an open door to read their answer. Or to prevent them from feeling pressured to respond first, after some initial group discussion on the question, the leader/facilitator can invite their input. These suggestions also are effective in preventing the group from relying on the same group members for answers and discussion.

Small groups are vital to the spiritual growth and maturity of a church congregation, whether the church is large or small. It’s easy to get lost in a large church and not feel accountable, but a small group makes a big church small. In a small church, like where we are right now, small groups expand the ministry and teaching during the week and can make a small church seem like a large extended family.

What other things have you found to be a problem and/or helpful in keeping your small group effective and maturing together in Christ?

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All my books have discussion questions for groups. I’ve also written a Face to Face Bible Study Series for women. There are seven in the series and each one is a perfect length for summer study. Or there’s a First Place 4 Heath Bible study God’s Best for Your Life.

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Love Your Body: Revive Sexual Purity

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

My goal for 2017 is staying aware of God’s presence and listening to His warnings. The word the Lord gave me: “Revival.” Today is Love Your Body Monday, and I want to talk about reviving sexual purity.

  1. Last Friday was the March for Life— the rights of the unborn. For the first time in history, a Vice President addressed the crowd and talked about “Life is winning again in America! Society can be judged by how we care for our most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled, the unborn. Science is illuminating when life begins!”
  2. Six days prior was the “Women’s March”—the right to kill the unborn by abortion. Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty described that march: “I was blown away by the vulgarity and the young children there!” I discussed that march in last week’s blog, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t: Some Women Are Still Like Eve: Believing the Serpent.

Two marches embodying two opposing concepts:

  • good vs evil
  • life vs death
  • peaceful vs angry
  • a body as God’s creation capable of creating and sustaining life, vs self-rights to use “my” body to create and kill life

In last week’s post, Eve and Adam ate from the forbidden fruit and sin entered the world. They immediately knew they were naked. (Genesis 3:2-3) Let’s continue:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

Satan was watching and saw God say:

  • Eve would become the mother of mankind
  • Nakedness should be covered
  • Man would always know good from evil

Satan already knew he could easily deceive man. The stage was set for Satan to do his work as ruler of this world in each of the above areas:

  1. Destroy humankind by having them kill each other in wars, murders, riots, terrorists, and abortion–sanitizing it with a name like “Planned Parenthood.” Slow propagation through infertility, normalizing LGBT lifestyle, redefining marriage, and creating gender confusion.
  2. Exploit and pervert sex, promote promiscuity, adultery, pornography, provocative seductive clothing, immorality, and lust, using media, marketing, entertainment, and Hollywood as the vehicle to idolize, romanticize, and normalize sin to each generation.
  3. Start a political liberal progressive atheistic movement that demonizes purity, virginity, celibacy, monogamy, Christianity, and the sanctity of life—remove God and the Bible from the public squre.

Time has proven that what one generation does in moderation, the next generation does in excess because Satan goes after the children!

Satan’s tactics have worked. Christians talking about abstinence or purity  . . . are laughed at . . . called prudes, dreamers, delusional, judgmental, preachers, and worse. Many give up even trying. Pastors don’t talk about the hazards of sex outside of marriage . . . the moral, sinful, and physical consequences on our bodies . . . God’s precious holy temples.

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh. 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:15:20

Why aren’t pastors telling young people and congregations that when you have sex with another person you become one with them? Hook ups, one-night stands, date sex,  living together, casual sex . . . every person you EVER had sex with . . . your souls united because that’s how God made us “the two become one flesh (Gen. 2:24) in sex.  God meant for it to be in marriage. Satan the great Deceiver would say, God didn’t really mean that. Yes he did.

Let’s Start a Pure Body Revival

One woman wrote to me: My mother gave me birth control pills at 13 so I wouldn’t get pregnant with all the low life boys I would have sex with in my passage into womanhood.

That broke my heart. We need a sexual revival in our country. Let’s start educating our young men and women. Parents, churches, mentors teachers taking the time to teach kids what really happens spiritually when you have sex, not just the physical mechanics, but share verses like those above and ones on purity and holiness, do Bible studies together, and talk about why God wants His people to only have sex in marriage. Explain that sex is not a natural or expected part of a relationship unless you’re married, regardless of how the movies or TV depict it, or what your friends are doing.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word. Psalm 111:9

In Forsaken God? I wrote, “Young people need to hear how to use the Bible as a benchmark to distinguish truth from lies. They don’t need condoms and birth control pills and talks on safe sex; they need to know how to make choices based on eternity, not just avoiding maternity.”

Sexual revival applies to all ages and it won’t be popular, but we can pray for God to empower us and give us the opportunity to spread revival in our sphere of influence. Our culture ridicules men and women who vow celibacy until their wedding night. Rampant casual sex—hook ups, dating sex, friends with benefits, living together—reduces sex to lust, not love. The world, deceived by Satan asks, “What’s love got to do with sex?” Even many Christians choose to be a part of this world rather than set apart and pure for God who tells us “So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” –Lev. 20:7 (NLT)

Single moms and single women this means you too. You must set the example and role model for these young women and girls and for your daughters and sons. I was a single mom and I’ve been on both sides of this discussion. Yes, I was a virgin when I married my daughter’s father. We didn’t have birth control pills when I was a teenager. My mother wasn’t a religious person, but she told me emphatically that sex was for marriage. Sex can make babies. White wedding dresses are for virgins, and no boy or man is worth forfeiting that one-time sacred privilege. I believed her, and I waited, and I’m glad I did. She set a moral compass for me and I stuck to it.

In Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, I share how my moral compass shifted in my divorced, single years and I did not set a good role model for my daughter. I’m here to tell you that Satan is a liar. God made our bodies to glorify and honor Him, and praise God He is the God of many chances. For those who feel it’s too late, they aren’t a virgin or are too sexually impure so what difference does it make, God is the God of renewal. We can come before Him and ask for forgiveness for our past, repent, rededicate our life and go and sin no more just like the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well.

Satan makes the sinful life look exciting and enticing, but anyone who has come out of the dark into the light will tell you loving your body the way God loves your body is the only way to a joyful, peaceful life.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

Many will think I’m idealistic and sexual revival is impossible. I’m not naïve enough to think women and men are going to stop having sex outside of marriage, but maybe some will. The theme of this year’s Walk for Life was the Power of One. They stressed the importance of reaching the next generation, which is my passion too.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

I want to share two books: both from the Robertson family of the Ducky Dynasty TV Series. The Robertson’s are vocal about their faith and belief in Jesus Christ and family.

Sadie Robertson was seventeen when she wrote Live Original: How the Duck Commander Teen Keeps It Real and Stays True to her Values and I included this quote in my book Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten

When you put your relationship with God first and you also have a great relationship with your family, you can risk having people get upset with you for standing up for your beliefs. You can risk being rejected because of your values, and you can even risk losing a boyfriend if the relationship is not going in a godly direction. You can risk looking or acting different from other people. You can do these things because you know you will be okay without them. You know God is with you and for you, and I hope you can also know your family is standing beside you, but even without your family’s support, you can know that God is there.

Jase Robertson wrote in Good Call: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Fowl about his decision as a teenager to remain sexually pure until marriage:

One day after hearing my buddies talking about sexually transmitted diseases and asking my dad about it. I don’t remember the specifics of his speech, but I would never forget the last thing he said. “Son you keep that thing in your pocket until you get married and you’ll never have to worry about it.” He told me. The timing of our conversation was perfect when it came to my staying sexually pure.

I eventually came up with a plan of action. On the first date, I would share my faith with the girl and declare my intention to wait until marriage before having sex. In a way this held me accountable, and it also got rid of any girls who had a quick roll in the hay in mind. I also decided to stay away from the “second look”—noticing a good-looking woman, then dwelling on her for a second, more lustful look. I tried to notice the beauty and feel the attraction to a woman but ultimately pursue their spiritual makeup. . . . God changes us from the inside out, and that helps us look at other people the same way.

Jase did stay sexually pure. He and his wife Missy were both virgins on their wedding night. With God all things are possible!

We need to build a new culture of purity, a new culture of life. A new normal.

Let’s make purity popular again!

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

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An article I wrote for Crosswalk that might be helpful Have You Forgiven Each Other for Premarital Sex?

If you’ve had an abortion, I recommend Pat Layton’s book Surrendering the Secret.

For more thoughts on Revival of Titus 2 Women see this month’s About His Work Newsletter.

A Bible study I wrote for First Place 4 Health goes into depth about keeping our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits pure and holy: God’s Best For Your Life. Study on your own or as a group.

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Love Your Body—Give Yourself the Gift of Health

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Monday comes this year right after Thanksgiving weekend when you’ve probably just finished off the pumpkin pie with whipped cream—maybe for breakfast—and you’re wondering if you can lose that extra five pounds before the Christmas parties start next week. My first party is actually this Friday, December 2, and then away we go for the next month!

Don’t become discouraged and beat yourself up. After all, you only get Mom’s dressing and Grandma’s apple pie once a year, but you can’t continue that trend all month—especially if you’re on a medical diet and you’ve been making great progress or you just started reaching a goal. Don’t throw caution to the wind just because it’s the holidays and you’ll start over again in the New Year . . . chances are you won’t.

Give Your Body the Gift of Health

When I was a Registered Dietitian working in hospitals, they didn’t close during the holidays because people still got sick, they still had heart attacks, or insulin reactions, or any number of illnesses. I remember having to work one year on Christmas Day. So it doesn’t make sense to think I’ll just take a break from what I know I should do for this month or this party or this big dinner…because your body doesn’t care that it’s Christmas or Christmas Eve or the office party. Your body is going to react just like it would in the middle of January or June! So think and eat like this:

I must treat my body right every day, and when I overindulge, I must get right back to my normal regime the next meal.

You have to have a plan. Pray about how to deal with the tempting food you’ll soon be encountering before you encounter it. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment on what to eat, how much to eat, what to cook, how to cook it, and what to indulge in and what to avoid.

Sometimes I take a bite of something and it wasn’t as tasty as it looked, so I stop eating it. Or if it was good, I let that bite satisfy me. I peruse the selections and pick a couple that look the best . . . not one of everything!

Sometimes we plan to pace ourselves, then toss out the plan, and berate ourselves the next day when we get on the scales, or blood sugar or blood pressure is up—remember salty foods raise blood pressure.

Love Your Body—Beat of Treat High Blood Pressure

Love Your Body—Prevent or Reverse Type 2 Diabetes

Helpful tips and please share in the comments any you use:

  • Get on the scales daily so you know if your weight is fluctuating. If you wait until you notice weight gain in your clothes, you’ll have a tough time losing, and may just buy bigger clothes. If you’ve gained, avoid desserts, eat smaller portions, and eliminate bread, butter, and what I call “empty calories”—sugar, honey, jelly/jam, chips, junk food, soft drinks, alcohol.
  • Maintain your exercise regime. If you don’t have one, start! Even though the holidays can be crazy, give yourself the gift that keeps on giving. Exercise helps with stress, gets the endorphins pumping, helps your heart, and burns calories. In bad weather, join a gym, walk laps around a mall, or invest in exercise equipment (hint: ask for Christmas).
  • Take a green salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing to a potluck so you always have something healthy to eat. On buffet/potluck lines, take a small spoonful of foods you really like with one caution: Jell-O salads are high in sugar and fat. Don’t go back for seconds.
  • Have a small piece of the one dessert you like the most. Or take tiny bites of several. If one isn’t as good as it looks, don’t eat it!
  • Let your stomach guide you. When your belt or waistband tightens, STOP eating.
  • If you love bread, have a small piece, no butter. Skip store bought dinner rolls.
  • Eating out, draw a visual line down the middle of your plate. Eat half and ask for a to-go box for a tasty lunch tomorrow.
  • Drink water! Avoid punches, juices, soft drinks, and alcohol.
  • Enjoy stuffing or mashed potatoes without gravy. Avoid “sauces.”
  • Don’t add extra salt or butter.
  • Plan to start the New Year with a group of friends studying God’s plan for how to live a healthy life. I’ve written a study for First Place 4 Health that would make a great Christmas gift to get you started: God’s Best For Your Life. Gods Best for Your Life Cover

Cooking Healthy for the Holidays

I used to spend a day or two in the kitchen making cookies and candy. Then I realized I was the one eating most of it! Now, I pick a favorite one or two and make recipes healthier:

  1. No shortening! Substitute coconut oil or butter.
  2. No “vegetable” oil, use coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, or applesauce.
  3. Half the amount of sugar. You can substitute Stevia for the other half or use all Stevia.
  4. Use 2% milk, almond or coconut milk.
  5. Substitute whole-wheat flour for some of the white flour.
  6. I don’t use white flour, but use NAMASTE gluten-free Organic Perfect Flour Blend that I get at COSTCO, which can be used cup for cup for white flour with no other changes required.
  7. Put one stick unsalted butter and 1/2 cup olive oil in a blender or Cuisinart and use lightly as a spread on toast, rolls, veggies, potatoes as a soft “butter” spread.
  8. When making cookies with the grandkids, send the goodies home!

Keep the True Focus of Christmas

Remember Christmas parties aren’t about food! They’re about fellowship as you thank God for all His blessings and the greatest gift of all: His Son Jesus Christ.

I appreciate your desire to live the best life you can for the Lord and to love His gifts to you of Jesus Christ and your precious body.

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT

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Love Your Body—Why Are We So Angry?

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

As if we didn’t have enough diseases to try to avoid, the current election has created a new one—Political Anxiety Disorder or Election Stress Disorder—hospitalizing many people across the nation. They’re so upset about the outcome of the election affecting their lives, that they’re having panic attacks and all the physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • Pounding heart, sweating.
  • Headaches, stomach upset, or dizziness.
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Muscle tension, tremors, and twitches.
  • Fatigue or insomnia.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart.” —Proverbs 12:25a

“So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body.”—Ecclesiastes 11:10a

Anxiety Can Lead to Anger

If you receive my monthly About His Work Ministries email newsletter,* the opening article this month was “When Things Are Out of Control.” I received more comments on that article then I have from any article I’ve written all year. When things happen that we don’t like or don’t want to experience, but can’t change, it makes us anxious and we can become angry. Anger is a legitimate feeling and reaction, but what we do with that anger can damage our health, our body, and our relationships.

Unbridled anger results in bitterness, hardening of the heart, and often an offensive attitude that expresses itself in vile words and/or aggressive behavior. While there may be a quick release of angry emotion, if the root cause of the anger continues it eats away at mind, body, and soul, and others become victims of the residual fallout.

As the election progresses, I’ve had the most angry, vulgar, mean, vicious lashing out comments I’ve ever experienced on my blog posts and Facebook posts. It’s alarming that people live with such angry, bitter thoughts in their minds and hearts and use hurtful, X-rated words in their daily lives. I’m sure when the election is over, they’ll find something else to be angry about and their health, both physical and mental, will suffer.

Today it’s almost impossible to have a debate without it turning into a disagreement.

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”–Psalm 37:8

Where is the Anger Originating?

“Don’t sin by letting anger control you.”—Ephesians 4:26 NLT

“People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.”—Proverbs 14:29 NLT

Do you know the media outlets design the news to raise your blood pressure, anxiety level, and anger meter? They purposely create headlines to generate a negative response. The media wants you to engage angrily with either the person or situation their reporting on—they want you mad. Occasionally, they’ll throw in a feel good story, but usually it’s SENSATIONAL “BREAKING NEWS” not substantiated or factual . . . just hearsay, opinions, or “maybes” . . . and you walk away worried . . . angry.

As surely as a north wind brings rain, so a gossiping tongue causes anger!”—Proverbs 25:23 NLT

I write articles for an online Christian magazine, and they’ve discovered that the more negative the title, the more people read the article. Christians are being conditioned right along with everyone else.

Physical Signs of Anger

What does anger do to you physically? Some symptoms are . . .

  • clenching your jaws or grinding your teeth.
  • headache/migraines.
  • stomach ache.
  • increased and rapid heart rate.
  • sweating, especially your palms.
  • feeling hot in the neck/face.
  • shaking or trembling.
  • dizziness.
  • stress which can cause anxiety.
  • increased blood pressure leading to heart disease.
  • eating disorders.

You could pick from the above list, or add to it how you feel when you’re angry or someone around you is angry. Next time, take note of how your body reacts. Or better yet, learn to control your anger and remove yourself from an angry environment or situation.

What Can We Do About Anger to Help Our Bodies?

  1. Our anger may stem from feeling out of control. We don’t think we can make a difference or change our circumstances, but we can. When you’re doing something about a situation and you feel a sense of hope and purpose . . . your anger subsides. I’m going to refer you to a post I wrote for Crosswalk for how to make a difference one person at a time: You Don’t Have to Get Elected or Make Movies to Change Culture.
  2. In my Bible study Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community, I discuss the damage anger can do to our bodies if we don’t learn how to deal with it:EuodiaSyntycheCover72dpi1-200x300

Anger is an emotion felt in the moment that requires quick resolution. Many horrific acts occur and hateful words hurl in a “fit of anger.” You cannot retrieve actions or words.

            Uncontrolled raging anger makes us, and everyone around us, miserable. Pastor Doug Fields, likes to describe anger in terms of “outies” and “inies.” An “outie” is someone who spews out anger and doesn’t hold anything back. You know exactly how mad outies are and they want you to know. Often outies are over their anger once they have their “verbal vomit,” as Pastor Doug calls it, and they’re ready to move on. The problem with outies is the potential for people to be hurt, and even maimed, during the verbal, and maybe even, physical outburst.

            Inies on the other hand are the ones that profess they aren’t mad. “Everything’s fine.” they say, maintaining a thin smile while stewing and brewing inside. They may stuff down their anger for a long time while it burns, churns, and turns to bitterness. Inies find quiet, sly, unexpected ways to express their anger, or some never let go—the anger eats away at them physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the rest of their lives. Other inies only can hold their anger inside so long until the pressure builds into a sudden and violent explosion—the fallout being lethal to themselves and anyone in the vicinity.

            So how do you have healthy anger? Here’s the “ABCD” steps to take:

Acknowledge—that you’re angry.

Breathe—take a time out and step away from the source of anger.

Call on God—He knows what you should do regarding the source of your anger—ask Him.

Defuse—release your anger to God.*

*Excerpt from Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:7

stay-calm

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How To Stand Against Cultural Opposition & Disunity In The Church By Erica Wiggenhorn

 An Unexplainable Life book cover

Erica Wiggenhorn, author of An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonders and Devotion of the Early Church, is our guest blogger and Erica and I both have a heart for the church today to learn from the church of the past to impact our current culture. In Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, I trace the mishaps of the Israelites and how we can learn from their mistakes and forgetfulness of God’s goodness. Erica traces the biblical conflict that started right from the beginning of the church and offers solutions of how to confront inevitable conflict in the current church that is sadly influencing our culture away from God and the church. I’ve also written about resolving conflict biblically in Face-to-Face with Euodia and Syntyche: From Conflict to Community.

Enjoy and pray about Erica’s post below.

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One of the very first things I noticed about the early Christian church is that trouble started right away. The church was barely a week old before issues arose.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since the Christian church is made up of people—flawed, imperfect human beings. Yet we are somehow shocked today when issues occur within the church. We shake our heads in disbelief when believers disagree with one another, or are outraged when others come against the church because we don’t condone their lifestyle or support their beliefs.

The church should expect opposition within its walls and without. By living in a false mentality that the Christian church will perpetually function in peace and unity, we are deceived into not dealing with it. We think something is wrong. But what if we opened up the pages of Scripture, realized that there have always been issues, and therefore actively prepared for them? What if we intentionally wrestle and pray through difficulties before they even arise?

Disagreement and opposition are nothing more than the enemy’s plans to thwart the church. Here are just a handful of accusations that came against the early Christian church within weeks of its inception:

  • Prejudice
  • Favoritism
  • Insurrection
  • Governmental and social unrest
  • Hypocrisy
  • Deceit

How many of these do we see today? Nothing has changed, friends. But what if we changed, went back to the beginning, and prayed specific, powerful prayers like the early believers did?

How Should We Respond? What Should We Do?

“You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one’ … Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:25-26, 29)

Look at what God did as a result of this prayer: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31)

God gave them a visible demonstration that His power was mightier than Rome’s greatest emperor! The early Christians didn’t cower in the corner wringing their hands because they faced opposition. They confronted it head-on by addressing the One powerful enough to help them overcome it! They prayed to God. The early Christians in the book of Acts realized that regardless of what they faced, God was on their side and the church was going to continue.

God has warned us that we need to prepare for disagreement and opposition. We need to prayerfully decide how we are going to respond to difficult issues. We need to study the Word of God so we are aware of our enemy’s schemes.

We need to realize that trouble is often our greatest indicator that our enemy is threatened and God is at work. And as we study, pray, and come together with other believers wrestling through issues and injustices, the Holy Spirit will move with power—wall shaking power—and give us everything we need to continue to spread the news of Jesus! Two thousand years later, the gospel is still spreading!

Next time you feel overwhelmed by cultural opposition—pray. Next time you’re discouraged by disunity within your church—pray. Even before either one happens—pray, because it’s going to happen. Make sure you’re ready.

For more information about her latest Bible study, An Unexplainable Life: Recovering the Wonder and Devotion of the Early Church, and Erica’s Every Life Ministry click here.

Now It’s Your Turn

What is your general response when disunity occurs within your church?

How do you specifically pray for your church’s protection against cultural opposition?

What is one key way to prepare ourselves for opposition within our church or from without?

You can comment below or if you received this blog by email comment here.

Book cover photo

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Rest On Labor Day and Pray for Those Who Can’t Take the Day Off

I’ve always looked at Memorial Day and Labor Day as the bookends of summer. Both are now three day weekend holidays that also commemorate the end of one school year and the beginning of the next—although today’s schools don’t stick as closely to that schedule anymore.

You probably have memories of Labor Day picnics, family reunions, and barbecues commemorating the official end of summer; but beyond that, few stop to think about why we even have the day off. What is Labor Day anyway?

History of Labor Day

In 1894, Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday after a failed attempt to break up a railroad strike. Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.

Traditionally, all stores closed on Labor Day so workers could celebrate the holiday. Today, most stores are having Labor Day sales and their workforce is hard at work on a day dedicated to resting from work. Many people work on Labor Day without realizing: Hey, I’m a worker that has contributed to my company and I should have a day of rest!

It's Labor Day take the day offPray for Those Who Can’t Take the Day Off

Not every worker can take the day off and rest today. Those employed in the service industries often find holidays their busiest time: firemen, hospital employees, policemen, restaurant workers, gas stations, and now we can’t seem to go a day without a grocery store open. Seems like we could stock up on Saturday.

My father was a California Highway Patrolman and he took his turn at working every holiday. Labor Day is notoriously a heavy traffic day as travelers return from the three-day weekend. If you’re on the road today, drive carefully, courteously, and obey the speed limits. Pray for every policeman you see on the road. They have a family keeping a plate of ribs or a hamburger warm for the end of their shift.

Work or Rest?

The Crosswalk.com article, Labor Day: Your Need for Both Work and Rest by Nick Batzig, caught my attention. It started out …

“As we come to celebrate another Labor Day, it may be beneficial for us to step back for a moment and consider what Scripture has to say about the rhythm of work and rest—i.e. the cyclical configuration by which all the events of our lives occur.”

The article discussed God’s original plan for work and how that all changed when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and why God wants us to have times of rest and refreshment. Batzig listed several changes over the years that have resulted in work being motivated by prestige, self-esteem, peer pressure, fear, anxiety, and lack of purpose outside of work, rather than providing for our family. The following point resonated with what I see happening in families today:

“Whereas traditional societies said that you got your meaning in life through your family, and through basically fulfilling a fairly prescribed social role—either as a mother or father, or a brother or sister, or husband or wife, or a son or a daughter…You just needed to find a way to make a living because family was what everything was about. But we’re the first culture in history that says, ‘You define yourself by defining what you want to be and by attaining it—and then you have significance.’ There’s never been more psychological and social and emotional pressure on work to be either fulfilling or at least lucrative. There’s never been a culture like that.”

How Can We Change Culture?

I’ll admit that I’m a recovering workaholic. The only way I’m able to balance work and rest is to prioritize the things that are the most important to me—serving God and my family. My ministry is About His Work Ministries, so I’m fortunate to serve God through my work of writing and speaking. I also make sure to schedule times of rest with my hubby, and we often plan those times into speaking event travels and trips to see our grandkids. We also serve in ministry together as Dave assists me with About His Work Ministries, travels with me when I speak, and we co-lead a couples Bible study. But when I’m spending time with my family—my husband, children, and grandchildren—I set aside “work,” even ministry work, and focus on family.

That doesn’t leave much time in my schedule for “extra” activities, and so I’ve had to learn to say no to some good things. Before I say “yes,” and find myself with no time to rest and refresh, I’m trying to remember to do two things:

1. Pray and ask God if it’s something He wants me to do. Does it have Kingdom value?

2. Assess if I have the time and energy to add this activity to my calendar, and if so, what should it replace?

If I sense God telling me to go for it, I know I must remove something from my calendar or I’ll become unbalanced trying to get all the work done and rest will suffer. If you want to study more about what the Bible has to say about living a balanced life, you might enjoy my Bible study, Face to Face With Priscilla and Aquila: Balancing Life and Ministry.

What do you do to find times of rest and refreshment in a world that values work over rest?

 “Come to Me, all of you who work and have heavy loads. I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28 (NLV)

If you received this post by email, comment here.

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What’s Your Story?

Little girl praying

As many of you know, I’ve been writing the past three months on a new book which will be out March, 2016, How Good is God? I Can’t Remember … Creating a Culture of Memories.  I hope you’ve enjoyed all the guests who have enriched this blog with posts on many varied topics. I’m blessed to have so many talented and gifted author friends and I know you enjoy hearing from them.

I was surprised when several people asked me if I thought this would be my last book? I wasn’t sure why they would ask that except for the fact that we were under great spiritual attack and duress while I wrote on a topic that the enemy hates–remembering God in a culture that is quickly forgetting God.

But that would never stop me from writing and speaking for the Lord, until the day He decides to take me home. My ministry is About His Work Ministries and I plan on being about His work until my last breath. So it might not surprise you that I’m gearing up for the next book. I gave you a glimpse into it several months ago when I asked for stories, but I switched plans when the How Good is God? book had such a short deadline. So now I’m back to the mentoring book and I need your stories.

Do You Have a Mentoring Story?

If you follow me, you know that my passion is mentoring—Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s faithfulness. Since I wrote Woman to Woman Mentoring: How to Start, Grow, and Maintain a Mentoring Ministry in 1997, God has been starting mentoring ministries in churches all over the world, and mentors and mentees (M&M’s) have been experiencing the blessings of mentoring.

Over the years, many ministry leaders have sent me stories about starting the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, and many M&M’s have sent me their stories too; but I also know there are many untold stories that would bless my readers. Will you help me write this book?

I Need Your Help

The working title is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life’s Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. Here’s what I could use:

  1. What would you want to read about in a mentoring book about the seasons of a woman’s life?
  2. What would encourage you to be a mentor or mentee?
  3. If you’ve been in a mentoring relationship—either as a mentor or mentee or both—would you tell me your story? Even if it didn’t go like you planned.

If you would like to share your story, please leave a comment and how to contact you. Or go to the contact page on this website and leave me a message with your email address and I’ll give you more details.

Generation to Generation

FullSizeRender-2My 9-year-old granddaughter Katelyn asked if she could have one of my books for Easter, which made my heart swell with joy. I decided she was not too young for us to do a Bible study together, so I gave her Face-to-Face with Mary and Martha: Sisters in Christ.

An important aspect of remembering God, is helping the next generation know God. It’s our job description as Christian men and women!

Together we can reach, encourage, and teach what we’ve been taught to the next generation.

 Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance. Guide older women into lives of reverence so they end up as neither gossips nor drunks, but models of goodness. By looking at them, the younger women will know how to love their husbands and children, be virtuous and pure, keep a good house, be good wives. We don’t want anyone looking down on God’s Message because of their behavior. Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives.

Titus 2:1-6. The Message

 

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Want a New Start in 2015?

New Start 15 theme verse-1

 My friend and fellow author/speaker, Kathy Howard, is inviting you and me to join her in a search for holiness and a deeper walk with the Lord in 2015! In her guest blog today, she tells us more about New Start 15 and how to get involved. If you’re wondering why my Bible Studies are not listed on their Resource List, I’m writing fast and furious on a new book and wasn’t able to be a contributor for New 15, but I support it 100%. You can also consider starting 2015 with one of my Bible studies to do on your own, with a friend/M&M, or in a group.

New Start 15 by Kathy Howard

New Start 15 by Kathy Howard

I love the “undo” button on my laptop. You know the one – that little arrow that curves to the left. When you click it, the last thing you did magically disappears.

Sometimes I wish life had an “undo” button. I could click it to magically erase the unkind words I blurted. Or wipe out my selfish behavior. Or eliminate that wrong decision. To “undo” all those things that brought unwanted consequences or now weigh heavy on my conscience.

Yep. In fact, sometimes it would be great to start over all together. To get a clean slate. To get a complete do-over.

Guess what? If you’re a Christian, that’s exactly what you got when you entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. And sister, if things have gotten a bit off track since then, it’s not too late to undo and start new. In fact, now is a great time for a NEW START.

New Start 15

If you’d like to “undo” a few things or even start new on a bigger scale, consider joining me for “New Start 15.” During January, a few friends and I will be leading a month-long journey into holiness. Together we’ll explore what it looks like to become a “new creation in Christ,” to practically live out the set-apart, holy life to which God calls us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 2:17, NIV

The “old” life looks like the world around us. And it’s burdened with the weight and consequences of worldly living. But the “new” life is radically different from the world, holy and set apart to God.

There is glorious freedom and joy in living a life of holiness. Freedom from the weight and consequences of sin. And joy in a deeper intimacy with our holy God.

Do you like the sound of freedom and joy? The chance for a New Start? Our God is the God of second chances, clean slates, and do-overs.

 

Participation in New Start 15 is simple.

Here are a few ways you can get involved:

 

  • Use the New Start 15 Bible Reading Plan in your personal quite time January 5 – 23. (Free download)
  • Like the New Start 15 Facebook page to keep up with daily devotional blog posts, get words of encouragement, and share thoughts from your own journey. (You can also download the New Start 15 bloggers list and schedule.)
  • Follow the New Start 15 “blog hop” January 5-23 (weekdays only) as the New Start 15 team blogs about living the new, holy life in Christ. (List of New Start 15 Contributors)
  • Check out the New Start 15 Resources List for books, Bible studies, blog posts, printables and more to help you on your journey. (Free Download)
  • Invite your friends to join you in the New Start 15 journey by sending them the link to this post.

Do you long for deep intimacy with God? Do you desire for your life to please and glorify Him? Do you want your life to point others to Jesus? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then New Start 15 is for you! Join us in January as we dig into God’s Word to find out what He says about living the new, holy life in Christ.

 

Are you ready for a New Start? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. Or simply let me know you’re in! Happy New Year!

Kathy Howard

Kathy Howard

 

 

 

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Parents of the Bible Mentor Today’s Parents

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Our guest post today is by friend and fellow The M.O.M. Initiative mentor mom, Lindsey Bell. Next week, I’ll be sharing how I set goals for the New Year for my personal, ministry, and married life. One of those goals is to read through the Bible in a year. I love to read in different translations or use different guides to change it up each year so I was eager to learn more about Lindsey’s new book and how parents of the Bible could mentor us today!

 

A Resource for Spending More Time with God in the New Year

Lindsey Bell

 

With a new year right around the corner, many of us are already thinking about our New Year’s Resolutions. One New Year’s Resolution that seems to be a favorite among Christians is to spend more time in the Word…to read the Bible every day, or pray more often, or go to church regularly.

I want to share with you today about a new resource that can help you spend more time with God.

It’s a book called Searching for Sanity: 52 Insights from the Parents of the Bible.

This year-long devotional is designed for busy women who want to spend time with the Lord, but don’t have a lot of time to spare.

Each week provides a new devotional, as well as simple activities to do throughout the week to help reinforce the application points.

Here’s a little bit more for moms about the book:

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered, what in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me—of all people—to raise them?

Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past.

In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book uses the parents of the Bible—both the good and the bad—to inspire today’s mothers.

You can read through this devotional alone or with a group of moms!

Let’s talk: what are your favorite resources to begin the year well?

This post is part of Lindsey Bell’s December blog tour. To enter to win Lindsey’s MEGA-GIVEAWAY (the winner will receive 6 books!), leave a comment on any of Lindsey’s guest posts this month (including this one).

Enter to Win Lindsey Bell's Mega-Giveaway-1

For a full list of participating blogs (and other ways to enter!) visit this post on Lindsey’s blog.

You can pick up a copy of Searching for Sanity at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

 Lindsey Bell_web format-2

About Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity: 52 Insights from the Parents of the Bible. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. You can find Lindsey online at any of the following locations:

Her blog: www.lindsey-bell.com

Her website: www.lindseymbell.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LindseyMBell

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorLindseyBell

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/LindseyMBell01

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A Mentee Shares Her Story by Erica Wiggenhorn

Last week’s guest post was written by Judith Couchman who shared how she overcame misgivings to call Erica Wiggenhorn to see if she would like to be mentored in writing. It was a hard phone call for Judith to make but she wrote about how this was The Call That Changed My Life. If you haven’t read that post yet, be sure to read it before you read today’s guest post by her mentee, Erica Wiggenhorn. Judith and Erica confirm what I teach about mentoring: It’s always a  two-way blessing.

Receiving the Call by Erica Wiggenhorn

Camille_Pissarro_Two_Young_Peasant_WomenPicture by Camille Pissarro

Life felt overwhelming. Two steps forward, three steps back. It wasn’t the most difficult time of my life, tragedy and blackness had already shoved my face into the dirt and sent me reeling. Rising back up, I had pressed on in my journey. Digging into God’s Word and participating regularly in Bible study had lifted me to my feet and steadied my steps.

Deadness and dryness marked my current season, sapping my strength. Incredibly busy, yet empty. Even Bible study seemed meaningless and inapplicable to my present circumstances. I cried out to the Lord, “Does it grieve your heart that no one wants to study your Word just to get to know You? Why isn’t there a study that focuses on Who You Are and not what you can do for me?”

The Lord nudged my heart and whispered in my Spirit: “You write one. Write a study about Who I Am.”

“Um, that wasn’t the question, Lord! I can’t write a study, I barely have time to brush my teeth!”

“Write it,” He persisted.

“How? Where would I even begin?”

“Ezekiel. Study the prophet.”

“Ezekiel?” I don’t know if I’ve ever even read through that whole book of the Bible before!”

After several months of resisting, the emptiness in my soul was excruciating, and with no lift in my circumstances in sight, I sat down and opened my study Bible. The introduction jumped off the page at me, “The Israelites worshipped God for what they thought He could give them, not for Who He Was.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up. This was exactly what I had been expressing to the Lord for so many months: I just want to know Who You Are!

“Ok, Lord! I’ll do it!” Now what? The task seemed daunting. I began to study, scribbling notes in a composition book and digging through commentaries. While life still felt overwhelming, the discoveries about God during my studies energized me. However, I still had absolutely no idea how to form all of this information into a study or even if I was ever meant to share what I was discovering.

The Next Steps

On a particularly difficult morning, I had dropped my children off at preschool in my socially acceptable pajamas, aka old, ratty sweats, and drove home in my mini-van. My phone rang and I answered it. My friend Kim boldly announced, “Every day during my quiet time, the Lord keeps laying you on my heart. Is there something going on with you?”

The floodgates poured open. I told her about my emptiness, my feelings of being completely overwhelmed with the daily tasks of life, and this new crazy endeavor of studying the Book of Ezekiel and attempting to write a Bible study. I didn’t know Kim well and what she said next shocked me, “Well, I am supposed to go on a writer’s retreat tomorrow. There are only 12 spots and one of the ladies hurt her back and can’t come. I think you’re supposed to be there.”

The next morning with my composition book full of scribbles, I headed up the mountain, completely unsure of what to expect. If anything, it felt wonderful to step away from daily life. It was there I met Judy Couchman. She spent the next three days inspiring us to pursue the call of writing. She encouraged me, looked me in the eye and said, “God has called you to this and I know you can do it!” I knew I had to finish this study, somehow or another.

A Relationship Was Born

The following year, I returned to that same retreat with my study completed. I placed a copy in Judy’s hands and her eyes lit up. She rejoiced that I had fulfilled the call that the Lord had placed in my heart and done the work. She prayed over the study and over me.

A few weeks after coming home and wondering what the Lord had next for me in the way of writing, my phone rang. It was Judy. I could sense a slight quake in her voice, which was so unlike the professional, accomplished woman I had met at the retreats. What she said next made my heart skip a beat, “I believe God is calling me to mentor you. Would you like a writing coach?” She didn’t even need to finish her question before I blurted out, “YES!”

Two studies later, I’m still writing. Without the accountability and nudging, I wouldn’t be where I am. Mentoring kept me moving forward when the journey seemed impossible. Judy’s words on the other end of the phone kept me focused on the calling and avoiding the distractions.

Sometimes we just need an arm around us or a shoulder to cry on. Other times we need someone to look us in the eye and say, “I know you can do it!” Most of the time, we need a reminder of that gentle whisper God spoke into our soul to muster up the courage to continue to obey Him. This is the work of a mentor.

Has God given you a story to tell? Who can you invite to come alongside you to do the work? Guiding that call is the delight of a mentor.

Author/Mentee Erica Wiggenhorn

Author/Mentee Erica Wiggenhorn

Erica Wiggenhorn is the founder of Every Life Ministries, encouraging women to live significantly through the study and application of God’s Word. She is the author of Ezekiel: Every Life Positioned for Purpose and Moses: Every Life Proof of God’s Promises. For more information about Erica and her ministry, visit www. EricaWiggenhorn.com.9781615079094_COVER.indd

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