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Reverend Billy Graham has died at the age of 99. Graham will be remembered as a faithful evangelist who dedicated his life to spreading the gospel. 

Graham spent seven decades preaching the Good News. He travelled to 185 countries, and reached over 200 million people worldwide. 

A North Carolina native, Graham was introduced to Christianity by his mother, who made sure the family attended church, and asked her children to memorize Scripture verses. However, church seemed boring to young Billy until he attended a revival meeting at the age of 16 and made the decision to follow Christ. 

From that point forward, Graham dedicated his life to ministry. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1939, and named the President of Northwestern Bible College in 1947. In 1949, he was launched into national prominence by preaching at a Christ for Greater Los Angeles revival. Graham formed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1950. He later served as an advisor to presidents and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. 

Graham’s greatest accomplishment was the millions that received Christ because they heard his message. His impact on the world cannot be measured. 

Executive director of the Billy Graham Center Ed Stetzer wrote, “Billy Graham was an amazing model for the Christian faith—a person whose mind and heart was fixated upon Jesus. There shall never be another person like him. And yet I know that if he were here, he would continue to remind us that we are all to proclaim God’s love in a world that is lost and drowning in sin.” 

“The world has lost an amazing man. And yet the Spirit of Christ lives on in all of us. My prayer for me and you is that we too would let the words of life fall off our lips at all places, at all times, and in all sorts of new and creative ways. It’s time for all of us to continue on where Rev. Graham’s passing has left a void.”

As the remembrances pour in today, let us remember the very words of Graham: “My home is in heaven. I’m just travelling through this world.” 

Watch a Live Stream of Billy Graham's preaching from the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.

Visit the BGEA's memorial page for Billy Graham to leave a condolence message.

Photo courtesy: BillyGraham.org

February 14. A day to celebrate love. 

Today, 55 percent of Americans will celebrate the holiday with their significant others. And according to the National Retail Federation, couples will spend an estimated $143.56 on jewelry, flowers, candy, cards, and dates. 

While this figure seems exorbitant, I’m not here to tell you where to spend your Valentine’s Day budget. But I will absolutely tell you where not to spend it. 

As you may be aware, Fifty Shades Freed, the third and final installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey series is currently in theaters. The erotica film is raking in cash, and scored the number one spot at the box office over the weekend. The R-rated movie has already grossed over $137 million worldwide, and it hasn’t even been out a week. 

But its popularity doesn’t mean Fifty Shades Freed is worth your time and money.

I’ll admit that I haven’t read that book that the film is based upon, but friends, you don’t have to get sprayed by a skunk to know it stinks.

What I’m saying is this: many others have read the Fifty Shades books, and watched the movies. They have already reported the facts for you. And the facts say that this is clearly not the kind of content Christians should be consuming. A quick Google search on reasons why not to go see the film yielded a slew of articles questioning whether or not leading actor Jamie Dornan agreed to shoot a scene will full-frontal nudity. (Note: I don’t know. I refused to even dignify such articles with a click.) 

If you still need convincing, Crosswalk.com writer Debbie Holloway explained back in 2015 why the site would not be reviewing the original Fifty Shades film:

“It takes very little research to realize that this glorified erotica is little more than a treatise on misogyny, manipulation, and abuse masquerading as a romance. Christian Grey,

  • regularly stalks Ana
  • tracks her cell phone without permission
  • manipulates her emotionally into giving him what he desires
  • gaslights her
  • explodes at her for using their ‘safe word’ when she felt unsafe (and then again later for not using it)
  • purchases her place of employment so as to become her boss
  • coerces her into sexual practices she neither understands nor desires
  • routinely forbids her from seeing others, making phone calls, wearing certain items of clothing, and asking others for help or advice

“Instead of labelled ‘abusive,’ these traits are portrayed as aspects of Grey's ‘kinky’ BDSM lifestyle. And because Christian and Ana end up married and ‘happy’ by the end of the third installment, it becomes yet another story perpetuating the dangerous myth that women can ‘change’ violent men. Many have latched onto the story as some sort of redemptive tale of a man trapped in darkness coming into the light. Unfortunately, the text clearly shows that Grey’s abuse remains consistent throughout the series, and Ana remains an eerie portrait of a battered woman who believes that her issues are caused by her own stubbornness or inadequacy.”

Christians are told to guard our minds (Proverbs 4:23 CEB). In today’s world, this means making smart choices about the kind of content we expose ourselves to. Fifty Shades Freed is definitely not the kind of faith-affirming material that we should be feeding our minds. It’s harmful. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out.” 

Holloway says, “Christians and non-Christians alike should be outraged and baffled by the success and adoration of this series. Its harmful qualities vastly outweigh any potential good it might include, especially for Christians who believe that true love is patient, kind, not envious, and not harming.”

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day celebrations, friends. But please, think before dropping $25 on movie tickets that do nothing to affirm biblical love and everything to tear it apart. 

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (Proverbs 119:37)

Photo courtesy: ©Thinsktock/Radovanovic96

Women, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably heard things like “you’re just too intimidating to guys” or “you have too strong of opinions” or “men don’t want smart, strong women like you.” If you haven’t heard these things, I’m so glad for you. Comments like these seem to suggest that it’s wrong to be a strong woman, or that it’s looked down upon to be brave, opinionated, outspoken, or well-educated.

The alternative is weak women. Even just writing those words together makes me cringe. Is that what we really want in our society today? Really? Is that what Christian men should be desiring?

Paul Maxwell asks the same question: “Do we want women to be weak? And the answer must forever be, on the basis of Scripture, ‘May it never be.’ Strong women are as vital as strong men to God’s purpose in the church.”

It’s not just because I’m a woman that I agree with him. When I read the stories of women in the Bible, I don’t see weakness. I don’t see women being quiet or holding back or living in fear. I see women like Mary humbly and bravely giving their lives for the will of the Lord, saying “May your word to me be fulfilled.” There was nothing timid in that woman, and I don’t want there to be any such weakness in women today either.

I believe women should be strong, and that real men of faith should love strong women for all they are.

Maxwell shares three reasons that strong women are essential in the kingdom of God:

  1. “Strong women expose evil men.” There are several stories throughout the Bible that illustrate this well, and Maxwell highlights Jael’s story in Judges 4. This woman drove a tent peg through the temple of a man who was an enemy of the people of God-- “Thank God Jael wasn’t meek and submissive and respectful toward this friend of her wayward husband,” he says. “She wasn’t one to be trampled on. Strong women reject the requests of evil men.” I’m reminded of the story of teenager Malala Yousafzai who “spoke out against the Taliban regime that had overtaken her rural township and banned girls from schools,” Crosswalk.com contributing writer Jeffrey Huston said in a review of the movie about her life. “By the time she was 15, Malala’s voice had become so influential that the Taliban put out an assassination attempt on her life – and nearly succeeded.” She, too, was a strong woman willing to risk her life to speak out against the evil men around her, and the world knows her name because of her bravery.
  2. “Strong women rebuke good men.” Let’s look at Abigail’s story found in 1 Samuel 25. David was setting out to kill Nabal (a mean, surly man) who was married to Abigail (described as intelligent and beautiful). Abigail knows what is about to happen, and she goes to David with an offering of food, wine, and sheep to try to change things. “In other words, Abigail warned: ‘Be careful. Don’t use your power in a way that will make you guilty,’” Maxwell says. I’m sure it wasn’t what David wanted to hear in that moment, when he wanted to lash out, use his force, and end the life of this foolish man… but it was what he needed to hear. The end of chapter 25 shows David thanking Abigail for her good judgment and for keeping him from bloodshed. “Strong women rebuke good men, who need help in their weaknesses, who need someone to help them see how to be strong,” Maxwell says.
  3. “Strong women raise believing men.” In 1 Timothy 1:5, we see Paul reference the strength and faith of both Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Many of us have fathers who are absent or disengaged, and the presence of strong women in our lives is a powerful one. “We live in a world where we need strong women to make men strong,” Maxwell says, “because sometimes there simply are no men there to do it.” If you have a strong woman in your life who has helped shape your faith and raise you into a believing adult, thank them and praise God for them. “In an age where fathers often fail to bestow the gift of faith to their children, the future often hangs on the strength of women to do that gospel work,” says Maxwell.

Women, be strong. Be bold and brave in your faith, and live humbly in service to our good Father. And men? Listen to what Maxwell says: “Real men love strong women, because God’s glory is beautiful, and ‘woman is the glory of man’ (1 Corinthians 11:7).” Don’t be intimidated by women of strength, but honor them and give your lives alongside them to bring God praise.

Let’s celebrate strong, brave, beautiful, powerful women of faith. And men, love those strong women well.

Publication date: May 13, 2016

Rachel Dawson is the editor of BibleStudyTools.com

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