Why I Wrote ‘Dating with Discernment’

Why I Wrote Dating with Discernment

By Sam A. Andreades

I wrote Dating with Discernment for three big reasons.

First, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, married couples now make up less than half of American households. Less than half. Something in our intimate relationships is going very wrong, and has been going very wrong, for a long while.

As American marriages crumble, everyone suffers. Even the Christian Church folk, who might like to think that they are above all that, are participants. I want to help. My experience as a pastor, and a friend, has taught me that the seeds of a marriage’s disintegration or dynamism are often planted at its very beginning.

I’ve watched many people get married and go on to bliss or bitterness, or something in between. And I have seen what makes the difference between later glee or gall as romance springs up. So this book focuses on that start of a relationship, when people are dating and deciding about marriage.

Check out the bottom of this post to get a free book!

The second reason why I wrote Dating with Discernment is that the median age of getting married rose by over seven years in the past four decades. In other words, most people feel unready to marry until nearly three-quarters of a decade later than before. Seven Years. Many have a deep feeling of not being ready.

Continue reading Why I Wrote ‘Dating with Discernment’

What Is Unique About Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

What is unique about the book Do Ask, Do Tell, Let's Talk?

by Brad Hambrick/

This is Brad’s Hambrick’s third post on his book, book, Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: How and Why Christians Should Have Gay Friends. The first two are here and here.
These two paragraphs from the introduction are why I believed a book like Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk was needed:

Churches have articulated their position on a conservative sexual ethic. Churches have re-examined the key biblical texts that are challenged in defense of a progressive sexual ethic. As important as these things are, however, they do not equip everyday Christians to develop meaningful friendships with people who experience same-sex attraction or have embraced a gay identity.

In the absence of relationship, our theology becomes theory.

Being right is not the same thing as being helpful. This is not to say that being wrong can be helpful, but in the midst of a culture war, there are many in our churches who experience unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) and are learning the church is rarely a safe place for them. Why? Because while their principal life struggle may often be debated, it is rarely if ever ministered to.

Think about it. Conservative churches regularly emphasize that God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for life. At the same time, few such churches foster an environment where those who experience same-sex attraction can develop meaningful friendships in which their struggle can be understood. These churches are unintentionally sending a message to those who experience same-sex attraction.The message essentially says, “Live alone. Live unknown. Live a secret.”[tweet “Don’t let culture war pressure us to withhold care from those who experience same-sex attraction.”]

Consider this excerpt from the opening chapter of Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk:

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What Will I Learn in Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

ASKTELL Blog Title lifecycle2 (6)by Brad Hambrick/

In this second of three posts (the first one is here), I want to introduce you to the kinds of questions addressed in my upcoming book, Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. To help make the rest of this post clearer, I’ll start by summarizing chapter one, which among other things gives us the vocabulary we need to speak wisely and accurately about this challenging subject.

Chapter One: “Language, Stigma, and Expectations” What is the difference between experiencing same-sex attraction,  engaging in homosexual behavior, and embracing a gay identity? How do these categories help Christians speak from a conservative sexual ethic without shutting down conversation? What are the words, logic, and ways of speaking that immediately designate us “unsafe” for those who experience same-sex attraction? When two people who have a vested interest in conflicting value systems talk, what are some healthy, realistic expectations for that conversation? How can the church be a safe place for these conversations, so that there is an alternative to “coming out” as gay?

In fact, my greatest hope is that this book will help equip the church to be a place where testimonies like these can become increasingly frequent:

  • An individual who embraces a gay identity could say, “I have friends who are Christians and disagree with my chosen lifestyle but love me well. I believe they would gladly help me if I had a need.”
  • A teenager who is beginning to experience same-sex attraction could say, “I have Christian friends who understand what I’m facing and care enough to help me think through this confusing experience.”
  • Parents of a child who is experimenting with homosexual behaviors could say, “Our small group cared for us well and helped us think through how to love our son. It was surprising how safe we felt to wrestle with the questions we were facing.”
  • An individual who was considering leaving the gay lifestyle could say, “The Christians that I knew while I was openly gay were a big part of the reason I may choose to pursue what I now believe to be God’s design for sexuality.”

If these statements reflect how you think conversations about homosexuality should be happening in the church, I believe you’ll find Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk to be helpful. Let’s continue now with the chapter summaries.

Chapter Two: “Being Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” Talking about sex is awkward enough. If we believe that Romans 1 is the only road to homosexuality (namely, progressive sexual depravity), then we respond to individuals who experience same-sex attraction as if they were the equivalent of sex addicts and pedophiles. Our ignorance of the same-sex attraction experience heightens the awkwardness of these conversations and increases the likelihood that we will be unintentionally offensive. This chapter examines the common internal obstacles to being a mature, informed participant in conversations with friends or family members who experience same-sex attraction (SSA).[tweet “We must see the moral differences btwn same-sex attraction, gay identity, & homosexual behavior.”]

Chapter Three: “Getting to Know the Experience of SSA” What is it like to realize that your experience of romantic attraction is different from that of most people? What are the common markers in the journey of individuals who experience same-sex attraction, and what emotions accompany those markers? What is it like to “know” that your attractions cannot be talked about “at church” but other people’s can? How would that dynamic influence your experience of Christianity and culture in general? An appreciation for these questions is vital to being a good friend (while not necessarily agreeing with your friend’s conclusions).

Chapter Four: “Getting to Know the Person Experiencing SSA” An appreciation for chapter three does not mean you know the experience of any particular individual. Knowledge about a subject without knowledge of a person is more debate-prep than relationship. This chapter will provide good questions to ask based upon the content of chapter three, and give guidance so that when SSA comes to the forefront of conversation, we don’t reduce an individual to this one characteristic.

Chapter Five: “Winning an Argument vs. Influencing a Friend” A cliché or gotcha line never transformed anyone’s sexuality. They get applause from those who agree with you and disdain from those who don’t. They polarize. What should be our tone and emphasis when discussing biblical passages on homosexuality? How early in a relationship do I need to bring up these passages in order to be a faithful Christian? Is it profitable to discuss things like research biases in genetic findings related to homosexuality? If so, then how, when, and for what purpose? At what point does protecting a friendship for the sake of influence become moral compromise?[tweet “A skill largely absent from the church: How to speak truth in love re: same-sex attraction.”]

Chapter Six: “Navigating Difficult Conversations” Tricky interpersonal issues can arise in this area. Will you come to my wedding? Shouldn’t my parents allow me and my partner to come over for Christmas? Am I not supposed to be hurt by Christians who say things they deem to be true, but say them in attacking and demeaning ways? If I do not experience any, or very limited, opposite-sex attraction, do I have to remain celibate my entire life to be a Christian? These and other subjects are addressed through an annotated dialogue that helps the reader think through what it would be like to have conversations about what they’ve read with someone who experiences same-sex attraction.

In the third and final part of this blog series, we will look specifically at what I believe will make this book unique and therefore valuable.

See all posts related to Brad Hambrick.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.) is Pastor of Counseling, The Summit Church; Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Council Member of The Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.), is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church, Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Council Member for The Biblical Counseling Coalition. He has published numerous titles in P&R’s Gospel for Real Life series.

Trusting God Through Miscarriage: An Interview with Jessalyn Hutto

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Jessalyn Hutto answered some questions for us about her recent book, Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb. We thought her responses would encourage you. Please share this with others who might be strengthened through it.

Can you comment on the process of writing this book, particularly the range of emotions you undoubtedly experienced?

Recounting past losses in intimate detail, as I did in my book, is bound to stir up sorrow. Emotions that had been dormant for years in some cases were brought back to the surface as I sought to recall the specific circumstances and affects of each loss. This was something I fully expected and opened myself up to when I decided to move ahead with the project. However, there were two events during the writing of Inheritance of Tears that greatly shaped the book and me.

The first was my dear sister-in-law experiencing a miscarriage with her first baby. She was not the only woman I knew at the time who was called to walk through this type of loss, but her sorrow in particular had a huge impact on my writing, causing me to connect emotionally with the book in a new way. As I sat at my computer screen, seeking the Lord’s guidance on how to most effectively minister to women in such profound pain, I often imagined that it was she I was writing to, and in many ways it was. Knowing that someone so dear to me was fighting for joy in the midst of such a terrible providence gave me a burden to communicate to all my suffering sisters in Christ in a sensitive and loving manner.

The second event that impacted my emotional journey while I wrote this book was that I was pregnant during much of the process. Writing about miscarriage during a pregnancy is a bit like writing about an airplane crash while flying over the Atlantic. I suspect most pregnant women try to avoid any thoughts of miscarriage, but here I was writing a book about it.[tweet “”Writing the book helped me rehearse key theological truths I needed.” @JessalynHutto #miscarriage”]

However, rather than being an added source of anxiety, writing Inheritance of Tears became a help to me in my pregnancy. It enabled me to rehearse key theological truths that my soul desperately needed in order to not give in to fear of the unknown.

Since writing the book, have you learned anything new about miscarriage and pregnancy loss from the women you have encountered?

Inheritance of Tears; Trusting the Lord of Life when Death Visits the Womb, by Jessalyn HuttoI’m continually astonished by the sheer frequency of miscarriage. It is such a common affliction for women in their childbearing years, yet one that isn’t typically addressed or prepared for.

Another thing I’ve been blessed to observe is the Lord’s goodness to women who are called to walk through the trial of miscarriage. If a woman is willing to seek God in her suffering, he is always faithful to reveal himself to her in an extremely intimate way. Through the grace of God, these women emerge from their suffering with a certain beautifying soberness they previously may have lacked.[tweet “If a woman seeks God in her suffering, he will always reveal himself intimately. #miscarriage”]

This is partly because they’ve been awakened to the eternal reality of sin and death in a new way. But more than anything, these women have been forever altered by an unshakable longing for a world that is yet to come—a world where they will be comforted eternally by the Savior who cared for them so dearly while they suffered here on earth.

What did you think about the attention brought to this issue during last weeks Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day?

I am very grateful there is a day set aside each year for raising awareness for pregnancy loss and infant loss. One of the most difficult aspects of losing a child in the womb—aside from the actual death of your baby—can be the feelings of isolation and invisibility that accompany your grief. No one else can feel the weight of what you have lost in the same way you can.

For a bereaved mother and father, the loss is real and tangible, but for those further removed it can be hard to understand the depth of grief. Having a day when these parents can speak openly and honestly about their losses provides a great opportunity for the rest of the world to see how painful miscarriage is and how often it occurs.

Because of the gospel, Christians have a special perspective on the tragedy of pregnancy loss and, for the same reason, a special perspective on abortion. Its undoubtedly challenging for some of us to think about those two issues side-by-side, but how would you talk about the connections between the two?

I believe women who are willing to speak candidly about the trial of miscarriage play an important role in the fight against abortion. With each miscarriage story that is told, the lie that pre-born babies are somehow less than human is shown for the evil it is.[tweet “Women who are candid about #miscarriage play a vital role in the fight against #abortion.”]

Many of these women have held their babies in their hands after they’ve miscarried and marveled—through tears—at the creative work of God in the formation of their tiny frames. In a society that values personal experience, they can offer important firsthand testimony to the humanity of the unborn.

Now, am I saying that every woman who miscarries should seek to publicize her baby’s death for the sake of the pro-life movement? Not necessarily. What I am saying is that speaking openly about the death of an unborn child is, in itself, powerfully pro-life. To openly acknowledge and grieve a life that has been lost is to champion the humanity of that child.[tweet “Allow yourself to grieve, and allow others to know you are grieving. #miscarriage”]

I would encourage women to share their stories of miscarriage with their friends and family, and on social media. Don’t feel as though you must immediately remove your ultrasound pictures from your Facebook page when you find out you’ve miscarried—unless of course it is too painful for you to see them. Your child existed; he or she was your baby. You don’t have to go on as though nothing ever happened. Allow yourself to grieve, and allow others to know you are grieving. It will help you to heal, and at the same time honor the life of your baby.

Grieving, Hope and Solace; When A Loved One Dies in Christ, by Albert N. MartinDo you feel that the book Grieving, Hope, and Solace: When a Love One Dies in Christ can offer comfort or help to women who have suffered pregnancy loss?

Yes! Every woman who has lost a baby will find tremendous encouragement from gaining a better understanding of the life her child now lives with the Savior!

Tomorrow, our weekly 20Twosdays drawing will take a sober turn as we give away a $20 store coupon plus one copy each of Inheritance of Tears, and Grieving, Hope, and Solace.

Jessalyn Hutto lives near Houston, Texas where she serves alongside her husband in his ministry as a church planter. They are blessed to have four young children. She blogs at JessalynHutto.com.

Jessalyn Hutto lives near Houston, Texas where she serves alongside her husband in his ministry as a church planter. They are blessed to have four young children. She blogs at JessalynHutto.com.

Meet Keri Folmar, Author of Our Bible Studies for Women

Meet Keri Folmar blog graphic (1)

Editor’s note: We recently shared 10 Reasons You Should Study Ephesians with Keri Folmar. This study is the third Keri has put together for Cruciform (check out her other studies on Philippians and James).

We asked Keri to share some of her remarkable story with you—how she went from writing legislation in Washington D.C. to helping her husband, John, plant churches in Dubai. And that’s just the beginning!

Keri’s Background

John and I met at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC), while he was the legislative counsel for a Senator and I, was counsel for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution (I eventually became chief counsel of the Subcommittee).

We married on October 25, 1997. In fact, we were the first couple to meet and marry under Mark Dever’s leadership at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Now, there are so many couples who get married there that we like to tell them we got the ball rolling.

The following year we moved to North Carolina, where John worked for a law firm while I stayed at home. Our first daughter, Ruth, was born in August of 1998. We then moved to Louisville, where John attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and our daughter, Chloe, was born in 2000. Andrew was born in 2002, and then we moved back to D.C. in 2003 so that John could serve as an assistant pastor at CHBC.

Throughout our time in these various places, I have loved studying the Bible. It was a joy to start the women’s Bible studies at both Clifton Baptist Church (with Diane Schreiner) and CHBC (with Adrienne Lawrence, Eli Schmucker, and Deb Siler) so that we could think long and hard over the precious Word of God with other women.

Move to Dubai

While John was still in seminary, we received some prayer cards for unreached peoples. Every night at dinner we would pray with our kids for one of the peoples listed. These prayers—along with the encouragement and example of friends who were going to minister overseas—sparked our interest in the gospel going out to the nations.

While we were at CHBC, we went on a short-term trip to Central Asia. We became particularly excited about Muslims hearing the gospel, so we wanted to be a part of that work. However, it was also clear to us that John was called to preach—not plant churches in a different language. The year after we got back from that trip, I prayed every Tuesday (which was the day I regularly prayed for the nations) that God would send us. But my prayer basically went, “God, I know John is called to preach in English, so we won’t be going. But please send us overseas to share the gospel.”

We had no idea that English-speaking churches existed in the Muslim world. But later Mark Dever came home from a trip to Dubai and asked John if he would be interested in serving at the United Christian Church of Dubai (UCCD). This idea thrilled our hearts and we have never looked back. God has done much more than we ever dreamed (you can read more about our ministry in Dubai through this interview with The Gospel Coalition).

Bearing Fruit Throughout the Nations

When we arrived in Dubai, approximately 500 people attended UCCD. Since then by God’s grace, we have planted 3 other churches in the United Arab Emirates with over 700 people attending our church (including 450 members) from around 60 different countries.

But the spiritual growth is more exciting than the numerical growth. We have become self-consciously Reformed and gospel-centered with a passion for expositional preaching. Recently we baptized 14 people. They were from India, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, Scotland, England, the U.S., Lebanon, and Ghana. That gives you a taste of the steady stream of conversions from a diversity of nations at UCCD.

Currently, our women’s Bible study has around 100 women participating. We meet in small groups and go through passages inductively, and then we join together in a room where we listen to expositional teaching. We have 12 small group leaders and 6 women who teach expositionally. Our leaders are from the U.S., Australia, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and India—and they are the sharpest women I know. God has been kind to us in our ministry in Dubai, and we would love for you to share in our rich experience of seeking God through His Word.

Tomorrow we begin a weekly giveaway of two books and a $20 store coupon, so be sure to check back!  Tomorrow’s free books are Keri’s two newest studies, on Ephesians and James.

Keri’s 10-week inductive Bible studies

Why Did I Write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

ASKTELL Blog Title lifecycle2 (3)

by Brad Hambrick /

It might be more helpful, at least at first, to explain why I didn’t write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. I didn’t write this book because I believe homosexuality is the most important or pressing issue of our day. Actually, to the contrary, I wrote this book because it is my perception (accurate or not) that part of what complicates the subject is that only people who are very passionate about it have the courage-boldness-audacity (whatever you prefer to call it) to speak or write on it.

Please note: This book will be released in January. Review copies will likely be available sometime in December. Email reviews@cruciformpress.com to reserve your copy. Preordering and other information can be found on the book page.

It’s my belief that someone needs to be part of the conversation who doesn’t feel as though history hinges on homosexuality. This is why in the opening chapter I try to be clear about my general perspective.

I do not consider homosexuality my “hill to die on” issue. I don’t believe the probability of experiencing the Third Great Awakening or whether America remains a geo-political superpower hinges on the moral-political issues surrounding homosexuality. Neither do I believe that gay rights as a cause is the logical extension of women’s suffrage or racial equality.

If your position on homosexuality is approximated in the paragraph above, you may be uncomfortable with this book. When the subject is framed in either of these ways, the answer becomes so immediately “obvious” that only an idiotic or evil person could disagree with you. Even if this is where you are, I hope you’ll keep reading.

There is a second reason I wrote this book: I was asked to—both directly and indirectly. This book was not on my radar until a friend came to me and said, “Would you be willing to write a book on how conservative Christians can have gay friends without compromising their own convictions? I think that kind of book is missing and it’s not something we handle effectively in the church. I think you have a tone in dealing with sensitive subjects that could navigate the topic well.”[tweet “New book: can conservative Christians have gay friends w/o compromising their own convictions?”]

My initial answer was, “Thank you for the encouragement, but I don’t think I’m passionate enough about the subject to write a book on it.” But the request was sticky and I began to listen a bit more closely to the debates in the Christian blogosphere. That is when I began to realize my non-passion for the subject might be an asset instead of a liability.

When I listened to the debates, my assessment (feel free to disagree) was that “conservatives” typically come across as if they have never cried with a friend who experiences same-sex attraction and wonders what this means, while “liberals” typically come across as if the only way for such a person to be authentic is to embrace a gay identity—that is, as if sexual attraction trumps every other aspect of personhood. I couldn’t imagine being someone who experiences same-sex attraction, would like some help thinking through that reality, but finds only these two polarized sources of guidance.

Then I began to reflect on the number of pastoral counseling conversations I’ve had with individuals who have experienced unwanted same-sex attraction. I thought about one of the primary sticking points in these conversations: the absence of authentic friendships in the context of which these individuals could 1) be fully known (honest about their struggle), and 2) be fully loved (without placing a strain on their Christian friendships), yet 3) without embracing a gay identity and joining the gay community.

Counseling can provide relief, but only community can offer hope. As I say in chapter two, “Counseling without friendship is like being stranded in the ocean and given a raft for one hour a week but asked to swim the other 167 hours.” In the absence of a church that understands, having a counselor who cares merely creates an impasse: there is hope (“God doesn’t hate me because I experience same-sex attraction”) but no clear direction (“I am still incredibly alone and the church doesn’t seem willing to help alleviate this significant part of my struggle”).

So I said yes and began the process of writing Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. My enthusiasm for the value of the project has grown. But, honestly, I don’t look forward to the controversy it may bring. Who can write 100 pages on homosexuality and not upset some people? That grieves me. Not because I am thin-skinned and anxious about people not liking me, but because in the current climate “debating the topic” usually excludes the person who is struggling.

Do Ask, Do Tell, Let's Talk; Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends, by Brad HambrickMy greatest prayer for this book is that God would use it to equip the church to build bridges of friendship in order to care well for two groups: Christians who experience unwanted same-sex attraction, and non-believers who did not find the fulfillment they hoped in embracing a gay identity. When those conversations are being had in living rooms and coffee shops, maybe it could even change the tone of conversation on social platforms and debate panels.

Regardless of whether that latter, lofty objective is achieved, I will be elated if Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk results in same-sex attraction no longer feeling like a sentence of “solitary confinement” for individuals looking for hope and direction from the church—more specifically from individual Christian friends—in the midst of their experience of same-sex attraction.

Read the second post in this series.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.) is Pastor of Counseling, The Summit Church; Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Council Member of The Biblical Counseling Coalition.

Brad Hambrick (M.Div., Th.M.), is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church, Adjunct Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Council Member for The Biblical Counseling Coalition. He has published numerous titles in P&R’s Gospel for Real Life series.

10 Reasons You Should Study Ephesians with Keri Folmar

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by Kevin

Keri Folmar has just released her third 10-week inductive Bible study for women with Cruciform—this time on Ephesians. We wanted to share 10 reasons why you should consider studying this weighty book of the Bible with Keri’s help:

1) It’s an Inductive Study

There are few truly inductive Bible studies for women written by a woman. This resource will center your focus on the words from Paul’s letter and help you articulate his intent in writing to the church at Ephesus.

2) It’s Spiral Bound

We make these Bible studies spiral-bound so that you can easily write in them.

3) It’s Designed to Encourage Interaction

The pages of these studies have lots of room for you to write your reflections as you pray over God’s Word.

4) It’s for Individual or Group Use

You can go through these studies on your own or with your family and friends.

5) It’s Available in Bulk Discounts

If you want to purchase numerous copies, we offer three levels of automatic discount: 8+ books=10% off, 25+ books=15% off, 50+ books=20% off.

6) Men Could Get Involved, Too

Men, you could pick up this study for your wife. If you are willing to forbear the flowers on the covers (they’re very theological tulips, after all), you might also want to lead her through it.

7) It’s a Tested and Cherished Tool

Keri first led women—in both the U.S. and Dubai—through these studies. They were birthed in the context of discipleship.

8) It’s Part of a Series

Before Keri published this study on Ephesians, she also labored to help women study Philippians and James. By God’s grace, this series has been warmly and widely welcomed.[tweet “Turns out that @CruciformPress has three 10-week inductive Bible Studies for women from Keri Folmar!”]

9) It’s Commended by Other Women

Keri’s studies have been endorsed by Connie Dever, Kathleen Nielson, Kristie Anyabwile, Gloria Furman, and others. For example, Diane Schreiner says, “Keri Folmar has done it again! Now she has made Ephesians a book to delve into, unfolding its message with accuracy and clarity. The questions are inductive and applicable, helping us to understand Paul’s intent and what Ephesians means for our church involvement and our personal lives.”

10) It’s Commended by Other Churches

Churches across half a dozen denominations have purchased Keri’s studies in bulk—and the response has been great.For example, Molly Blass is on the Women’s Ministry Council at First Presbyterian (PCA) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and has led a group of 75 women through Keri’s studies. She writes, “We don’t want to be women who are ‘always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth’ (2 Tim. 3:7). Keri’s material helps carefully guide us into truth, but it also includes pointed application questions that the Spirit can use to help us examine our own hearts.”[tweet “There are lots of good reasons to check out these 10-week inductive Bible Studies for women.”]

Grace; A Bible Study on Ephesians for Women, by Keri FolmarYou can now purchase Grace: A Bible Study on Ephesians for Women.