Tag: syndicated

4 Good Reasons to be Baptized

4 Good Reasons to be Baptized

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

We study God through His Word each Thursday on the blog. Our goal is to present the truth of God in a way you can digest and apply. This week we will look at what God’s Word says about baptism.

Laura was one of my closest friends in high school. She invited me to church long before I became a Christian. Once I turned my life over to Christ, she was a friend I ran to often with my questions about God and the Bible. But something about Laura bummed me out . . .

She didn’t want to be baptized.

We talked about it a few times. When I asked her why she had never been baptized, she would always say something like . . .

“I just don’t think I need to.”

“I don’t want to.”

“I’m a Christian. I love Jesus. I think that’s enough.”

Baptism is a picture of the way only God can make us pure and whole.

Laura was right. She didn’t have to be baptized in order to follow Jesus, but I still wanted her to. I just didn’t have enough biblical knowledge to understand why at the time. Many years later, I’ve seen God’s plan for baptism laced throughout the Bible, specifically in the Gospels and the book of Acts. Just in case there are some “Lauras” reading this blog who are Christians who have either decided not to be baptized or who are simply wondering why they should, here are four good reasons to be baptized.

You should be baptized as a symbol of God’s grace.

Repentance is a fancy church word for being sorry for and running away from your sin. The Bible makes a clear connection between repentance and baptism.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, emphasis added).

When we repent, we agree that we are sinners who violate God’s standards for holiness. Part of the process of repentance is telling God we need Him to clean up the messes we make. Because of grace, He is faithful to do it!

Baptism is a way to say the world, “I can’t be holy on my own. I’m a sinner and I can’t stop sinning, but because of God’s grace, I can turn from sin.” Baptism is a picture of the way only God can make us pure and whole. Isn’t that a picture you’d like to paint for the world?

You should be baptized because it shows your loyalty to Christ.

I like how Pastor John Piper puts it:

Faith unites us to Christ; baptism symbolizes the union.

An analogy would be saying, “With this ring I thee wed.” When we say that, we don’t mean that the ring or the putting on of the ring on the finger is what makes us married. No, it shows the covenant and symbolized the covenant, but the covenant-making vows make the marriage. So it is with faith and baptism.

You should be baptized because Jesus commanded it.

Right before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave His disciples their marching orders. These were His final words to them—the things He really wanted them to remember until His return.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20, emphasis added).

In addition to promising He would never leave us, God gave Christians very specific instructions:

  • Go.
  • Make disciples.
  • Baptize those disciples.
  • Teach them to follow God’s Word.

Because baptism is a symbol of God’s grace and because it is a way to publicly pledge our allegiance to Him, Christ commands it for His disciples.

You should be baptized because Jesus did it.

Matthew 3 tells the story of Jesus’ baptism:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16–17).

Jesus was baptized. I want to be like Jesus. That is good enough for me.

How about you? Have you been baptized? How would you convince my friend Laura to be baptized, too? I’d love to hear about it.

Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us:

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Is God an American?

Is God an American?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

We study God through His Word each Thursday on the blog. Our goal is to present the truth of God in a way you can digest and apply. In honor of our nation’s birthday, this week we will look at how God feels about America.

God bless America, land that I love . . .

America, America, God shed His grace on thee . . .

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land! God bless the USA!

Tomorrow you may gather with friends and family to eat all-American food like hot dogs and potato salad off of red, white, and blue plates. You may wave a flag at your small town parade or grab your lawn chair and head to a fireworks show. July 4th is set aside to celebrate the birth of our nation. It’s one of my favorite days of the year. But this year I’m wondering how God feels about America. I dug into the Word for some answers, and here’s what I found.

God is an International God

The truth is God reigns and rules over all nations.

We know God is not an American. He existed long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue or our forefathers brought forth a new nation. We may like to sing about God’s favoritism toward our country, but the truth is God reigns and rules over all nations.

For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing to your name (Ps. 18:49).

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you (Ps. 22:27).

God’s In Charge

If you watch the world news, it can be tempting to think that presidents and dictators are calling the shots. Certainly, the leaders of the nations make decisions that impact many, but ultimately God is in charge of what happens in America, in China, in Brazil, in Italy, and in every nation on the globe.

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne (Ps. 47:8).

God’s Grace is For All Nations

America is a blessed nation, but God’s blessings don’t stop at our borders. God’s grace extends to rich nations and poor nations, nations at peace and nations at war. Yes, God blesses America . . . but His blessings are poured out on people in every nation.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations (Ps. 67:1–2).

May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! (Ps. 72:11).

God Will Judge the Nations

The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God (Ps. 9:17).

“I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there” (Joel 3:2).

Eventually God will judge the nations. He won’t judge them based on the size of their armies or the amount of money in their national treasuries, but on their obedience to and love for Him.

So as you celebrate America this weekend, would you consider praying for her? Here are five specific ways to pray.

Pray for revival. That’s just a churchy word for bringing back to life. Pray that God would bring churches and hearts back to life with renewed passion for Him.

Pray for the lost. There are many in America who do not know Jesus as their Savior. Would you pray for them right now? If you have specific friends and family members who are lost, pray for them today.

Pray for the Church to shine. Pray that the American church would be a place of healing and hope that people are drawn to.

Pray for our leaders. The Bible calls us to pray for our leaders.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our savior (1 Tim. 2:1–3).

Pray for President Barack Obama. Pray for the members of Congress, and pray for the leaders of your state.

Pray for repentance. Pray that America would be a nation of repenters who turn from our sin and desire to obey God’s Word.

If you will agree to pray for America for the next ten days, leave me a comment below to tell me about it.

Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us:

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Freebie Friday! Seeking Him

This week we are giving away Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom. I’m so excited to get it into your hands, because it’s a Bible study that has had a huge personal impact on my own walk with Christ. (I’ve gone through it twic… Read more →

Is God Mad at Me?

Is God Mad at Me?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

We study God through His Word each Thursday on the blog. Our goal is to present the truth of God in a way you can digest and apply. This week we will look at what makes God angry (and what doesn’t).

I got sent to the principal’s office three times in my entire school career. I never got in much trouble (talking in class was my offense), but the memory of waiting to see the principal is forever burned into my memory . . .

Sweaty palms.

Pit in my stomach.

An overwhelming urge to hide.

I was terrified the principal would be mad at me and, as a result, so would my parents. Their collective anger and disappointment were worse than any punishment I received.

When it comes to God, I’ve spent many years feeling like I was sitting outside the principal’s office.

I’ve been a Christian for almost two decades. Looking back, I can see that I’ve spent most of those years feeling like I did in those moments outside the principal’s office. I’ve been convinced that God was mad at me and terrified of the punishment He would hand down. I’ve had near-constant anxiety that He is somehow disappointed in me. When bad things come into my life, I’ve read them as proof that God is angry.

But God has been working in my life lately, showing me areas where my theology (that’s a big word for my beliefs about who God is) are askew. I’ve been challenged to go to the Word for the answer to this big question: Is God mad at me?

Here’s what I’ve found.

Yes, God gets mad.

There’s no denying God’s anger in Scripture. We can hear stories like the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah due to sin (Gen. 19) or His sentencing of the Israelites to wander for forty years because of their grumbling (Num. 14) and begin to get a picture of God like a Father who flies off the handle. When that happens, we’re missing part of the story.

Yes, God’s anger is fierce. But the Bible also tells us that His anger is:

  • Reluctant and short-lived.
  • The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).

  • Consistent with His righteous and merciful character.
  • God is a righteous judge (Ps. 7:11).

  • Ultimately what He uses to make us more like Him.
  • “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years” (Mal. 3:2–4).

And what is it that makes God angry, anyway?

  • Idolatry—worshiping something other than Him
  • Unbelief—not believing He is who He said He is
  • Disobedience—not following His commands
  • Pride—thinking you’re the center of the universe
  • Hypocrisy—saying one thing and doing another
  • Grumbling—whining about what God has or has not done
  • Injustice—violating the rights of others

It is because of God’s righteous anger that the Bible commands us to fear Him (Prov. 1:7). But fearing His righteous judgment is not the same as worrying He might zap you. It’s the difference between revering someone who rightfully sees your sin and wants to correct it and seeing God like a cop in your rearview mirror.

Mad for me.

As we look at His anger in the Word, we see that its purpose is always correction—to move His people away from sin and toward Him. His reaction to sin is so strong because of these truths:

God takes our sin seriously and yes, it angers Him, but He is mad for us not at us.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear (Isa. 59:2).

For the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

We have a way of convincing ourselves that sin won’t hurt us, but God knows better. He knows our sin separates us from Him. He knows that ultimately our sin leads to death. Yes, He takes our sin seriously and yes, it angers Him, but He is mad for us not at us.

He is mad for the ways sin will wreak havoc on our lives.

He is mad for the ways sin keeps us from Him.

He’s mad for the ways sin mars His creation.

He is mad for the chains that sin puts on our spirits.

God is not moody. He doesn’t fly off the handle. He isn’t disappointed in me because I slept through my quiet time. He isn’t mad at me because I’m not perfect. He is angered by my sin because of His deep love.

Is God mad at you?

I wonder if when you think of God, you feel like a girl sitting outside the principal’s office? Do you live in a perpetual state of fear that He is mad at you, that you have somehow disappointed Him again?

If so, can I invite you to ask the Lord to show you the truth about His anger? Then join me in studying the anger of God in His Word. To get you started, here’s a great resource from BibleGateway.com that I borrowed from for this post.

Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us:

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Freebie Friday! A 30-Day Walk with God in the Psalms

Freebie Friday

I’m so proud of you, LYWB.com readers! If I had a refrigerator big enough for all 30,000 of you, your picture would be on it! Why?

Because you have a genuine desire to study and learn God’s Word. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago when I tested your biblical literacy, you told me things like . . .

As the summer starts and school ends, I am going to make a real effort to get into the Word more—more than once a day.

I seriously needed a slap in the face to stop claiming I’m a devoted Christian but not studying the Word. I will put in the effort to read it every day.

I’m gonna try to read the Bible on a daily basis! Pray for me that earthly distractions won’t get in my way.

If you’re one of those girls who made a commitment to reading God’s Word more this summer, I know what you’re thinking . . .

Now what?

How do I study the Bible?

Freebie Friday to the rescue! For the next three weeks I will be giving away great Bible study resources guaranteed to help you dig into God’s Word.

First up is A 30-Day Walk with God in the Psalms by Lies Young Women Believe co-author Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Based on thirty of Nancy’s favorite psalms, this book will show you how to:

  • prepare your heart.
  • listen to God.
  • discover what the passage says.
  • explore what the passage means.
  • make the passage a part of your life.
  • respond to God.

Sounds like great summer reading to me!

How to win

Leave us a comment with your response to the question below (be sure to click the “I Commented” button in the giveaway widget once you’ve done so). For extra chances to win, share about this post on Twitter or Pinterest using the giveaway tool. If you don’t have a Twitter or Pinterest account, no worries! These are more like extra credit. Be sure to give us your correct email address with your comment. We will only use this to contact you if you win. No spam . . . ew.

Giveaway Question: What’s your favorite psalm?

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A Godly Girl's Guide to Fighting

A Godly Girl's Guide to Fighting

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:15–17).

God gives very specific instructions for how to confront a friend. Let’s break it down.

When to confront a friend.

Did you notice when this passage instructs us to confront a friend? “If your brother sins against you” (v. 15).

If it’s just your preference or your feelings that are on the line, it’s probably best to let it slide.

If your friend is gossiping about you, that’s a sin (Rom. 1:29).

If she has taken something that belongs to you, that’s a sin (Luke 18:20).

If she often loses her temper with you, that’s a sin (James 1:20).

If she just doesn’t want to hang out as often as you’d like, that’s not a sin.

If she has a new friend she’s spending a lot of time with, that’s not a sin.

If she put something on her Facebook wall that might or might not have been directed at you, that is not a sin.

To be clear, sin violates the standards of God. If it matters to God, it matters. If it’s just your preference or your feelings that are on the line . . . it is probably best to let it slide.

Proverbs 19:11 says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

In other words, it is wise to simply let some things go.

With this in mind, if your friend’s sin still warrants a confrontation, this is how God wants us to go about it.

Step 1: Have the talk.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (v. 15).

How do you confront a friend? You go to her and talk to her.

Sounds simple enough, but usually we complicate it.

Notice it doesn’t say “send her a text.” (And I don’t think that’s because texting hadn’t yet been invented yet!) It doesn’t say “talk to someone else asking for advice before you talk to your friend.” It doesn’t say “act really weird around her and hope that she will get the hint and come and talk to you.”

If there is a problem, go to your friend one on one. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200 dollars. Do not skip this step. The only way to have godly conflict is to start with a one-on-one conversation.

Step 2: Get a mediator.

“But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (v. 16).

So you talked to your friend and it didn’t go well. What next?

You take one or two other friends and all gang up on her, right?

Wrong!

Yes, the Bible does say to try the talk again with two or three others (it’s talking about other members of the Church here), but this is not about ganging up on the friend who has sinned.

Look again. What is the purpose of those additional friends? To collect evidence.

They are there to listen. They are there to hear both sides. They should also be willing and able to pray.

They aren’t there to act as your backup. They aren’t there to bully. They aren’t there to intimidate.

This step is called mediation. Mediation is intervention that leads to reconciliation. Choose mediators who love God, know His Word, and love both you and your friend.

Step 3: Get your church involved.

The Bible doesn’t say that now is a good time to jump ship. It doesn’t say to ditch the friend because you’ve tried and she just hasn’t listened. The Bible urges us to keep trying with more and more assistance from others who want to see godly reconciliation happen.

“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (v. 17).

Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

It’s good for Christians, it’s good for the church, and it’s good for the lost world for Christians to get along. If mediation doesn’t work, ask your pastor or youth pastor to get involved.

Step 4: Love extravagantly.

“And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (v. 17).

Gentile?

Tax collector?

That sounds like some pretty nasty name-calling, right? Surely Jesus is giving us permission to write our friend off at this point. Not exactly.

When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclined with Jesus and his disciples (Matt. 9:10).

What did Jesus do to Gentiles and tax collectors? He befriended them. He offered them grace they didn’t deserve. He loved them extravagantly even though they couldn’t reciprocate. He continued to teach them the truth.

If you’ve confronted your friend God’s way and she still doesn’t respond, you don’t get to jump ship. Instead you get to continue to offer love, prayers, and hopes of reconciliation.

Willing to fight God’s way.

If you’re like me, God’s plan doesn’t exactly match up with how I handle conflicts in my life. Instead, I tend to vent, gossip, and brush friends off. But I’m asking God to teach me how to handle conflict His way in the future.

Join me?

Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us:

God’s guide for fighting fair today on @lywbblog. (Be sure to include a link to today’s post).

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Four Questions to Ask Before You Confront a Friend

Four Questions to Ask Before You Confront a Friend

You call your best friend and pour your heart out about a big event coming up in your life. When the big day comes, you don’t hear a word from her. Not a call. Not a text. Not an email. You feel ignored and unimportant.

The two of you used to do everything together. You were so much alike you joked that you were sisters separated at birth. But lately she’s just stopped calling. When you see her she acts totally weird.

It’s because you both love Jesus so much that you’ve become such great friends. You always sit together in youth group. You’ve done Bible studies together. You keep each other accountable. But lately she’s started seeing a boy in secret that her parents don’t approve of. She doesn’t want to talk about it with you, and you can tell her passion for Jesus is starting to fizzle.

I wish these were hypothetical scenarios, pulled from my imagination.

They are not. All of these situations have happened to me. In some cases, I was the girl who was wronged. In many, I was the girl hurting others. Whether you can see yourself in these exact stories or not, I’m sure you can think of situations in your life when friendships were strained. That’s because . . .

Relationships are messy.

Loving others like God means agreeing to get messy.

I love how Colleen Chao put it in this post on TrueWoman.com. (That’s our big sister blog!)

Until my late twenties, I thought agape love was synonymous with simple, harmonious relationships. Life experience has proven, however, that to love someone selflessly often means opening myself up to relational conflict, hurt, and disappointment.

That word agape comes from the Bible, and it describes selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. It’s the kind of love God calls us to have for others. Sometimes we think that God’s plan for love must be sweet and nice and easy. But agape love doesn’t work that way. Loving others like God means agreeing to get messy.

This can be especially true when we need to confront a friend. But God’s got our backs. He outlines very specific instructions for how to confront a friend in His Word. We’ll get to that soon, but before you confront a friend, here are four questions God’s Word urges us to ask.

Question 1: Am I angry?

Anger might be the first red flag that you’re not ready to confront your friend.

Proverbs 29:11 says it is foolish to give full vent to your anger but wise to stay under control. James 1:20 urges us to be slow to anger. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says that anger resides in the lap of fools.

Let me say it another way.

Just because you feel it, doesn’t mean you have to say it.

Perhaps there needs to be a bigger reason to confront your friend than simply that she made you mad.

Question 2: Am I judging?

Matthew 7:1–5 says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Before you run to your friend about the sin in her life, make sure you are judging her by God’s standards, not simply your own preferences.

Confronting our friends about sin is serious business. While we shouldn’t shy away from it, we also need to realize that we have a responsibility to deal with our own sin before confronting someone else about theirs.

Before you run to your friend about the sin in her life, make sure you are judging her by God’s standards, not simply your own preferences, and that you have been just as watchful for your own sin as you are for hers.

Question 3: Am I trying to win?

What’s your real motivation for confronting your friend? Do you want to prove that you’re right? Do you want to make her feel bad because she made you feel bad? Do you want to impress someone else?

Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The most important person in any potential confrontation is the other person. Instead of thinking about what you will get out of a conflict, the Bible urges you to think of the other person first. If you’re not ready to see it from her point of view, you’re not ready to confront.

Question 4: Do I love peace?

Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

I know what you’re thinking . . .

“But she . . .”

“But you don’t understand what’s going on . . .”

“But I’ve tried and she just won’t . . .”

God knew about our tendency to pass the buck, and that’s why He says, “So far as it depends on you.” In other words, do your part to get along. Who should we live at peace with? All. Everyone. Even that friend who is hard to live at peace with.

Do you love peace or do you love drama? Do you do everything in your power to live at peace with everyone in your world or do you do things to contribute to conflict and chaos?

Before you confront, you need to spend some time asking God to help you love peace.

A Godly Girl’s Guide to Fighting

After you’ve wrestled with these questions, there may still be a need to confront your friend. Then what? God gives us a step-by-step guide for confrontation in Matthew 18:15–17. We’ll put that passage under the microscope in tomorrow’s post. Would you mind reading it today as homework?

In the meantime, tell me about a time when you confronted a friend. Looking back, did you ask these questions first? How would things have turned out differently if you had?

Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us: 

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Freebie Friday! Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl

Freebie Friday

Wanna play Simon Says?

Simon says if you like free stuff. As in . . .

  • F-R to the double E
  • Swag
  • Something that costs free dollars and freedy free cents
  • A gift

Raise your hand!

I’m assuming your hand is up!

We all like free stuff. That’s why I am so excited to announce LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com Freebie Fridays!

How does it work?

You visit our blog every Friday, and we give you free stuff! And not just any free stuff. We have plans to give you great resources loaded with truth from God’s Word.

What’s the catch?

There isn’t one. Just read the post, and do what it asks. Sometimes we will ask you to leave a comment. Sometimes we will ask you to share us on your social networks. Sometimes we will pick your brain. (Don’t worry; it doesn’t hurt!) We will pick a winner each week and send free stuff your way.

Drum roll please

Let’s kick it off with Confessions of A Boy-Crazy Girl by our very own Paula!

Why this book? Check out this description:

     

  1. You spot a cute boy (we’ll call 
him Boy A).
  2. You dream about Boy A.
  3. You do whatever it takes 
to make Boy A notice you.
  4. Even though Boy A doesn’t pursue you, you hang 
on to your dream of Boy A until he (a) moves to the North Pole with no access to 
a cell phone or computer, (b) dies and is buried or cremated, or (c) begins dating 
another girl.
  5. You mend your broken heart by hating Boy A and finding another cute boy (Boy B). You replace Boy A with Boy B and begin all over again . . .  

Paula has gone through an entire alphabet—and more—of boys over the years.
As she shares her journal entries and stories—the good, the bad, and the ugly—you’ll be encouraged to trust God with your love life and buckle up for the ride!

Simply put, it’s a book every girl needs!

How to win it

Answer a couple of questions, and you’ll be entered to win. You can get extra chances to win by sharing us on your social networks. We will pick a winner next Wednesday. You are welcome to enter every day between now and then.

Oh, and . . .

Simon says put your hands down!

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A Test You Don't Want to Flunk

A Test You Don't Want to Flunk

I once heard the story of an old man who knew the Bible frontward and backward. He had huge chunks of Scripture memorized. He was so familiar with the Word that he could look up what he needed in it without a concordance or fancy Bible app. His copy of the Bible was well worn and well loved.

Not surprisingly, knowing the Bible this well made a huge difference in the old man’s life. After all, God’s Word has the power to:

Seeing the difference the Bible made in his life, a young man approached the old man and asked how he could know the Bible so well.

The old man said, “You don’t want to know the Bible like I do.”

Shocked, the young man asked why not.

“Because you don’t want to do the studying that’s required.”

The young man walked away sad, because he knew the old man was right.

Just the Facts Ma’am

The bottom line is that knowing the Word of God takes work. We can’t simply download it into our brains. We won’t learn it by looking at our Bibles as they sit on our nightstands. We can’t just quote John 3:16 every once in a while and say we know the Bible. To know God’s Word—really know God’s Word—we have to study.

The reality is that most of us aren’t willing to do that kind of work. Researchers have done some digging, and they’ve found that Christian teens don’t know much more about the Bible than their non-Christian peers. Only 16 percent of you read your Bible daily. Only 12 percent of you manage to read it once a week. Only 9 percent of you say you are highly knowledgeable about the Bible.

It is impossible to grow in your faith, understand who God is, and live the way He wants you to live without regularly studying His Word.

I’m not trying to embarrass you; I struggle to study my Bible regularly, too. But I want you to understand an important bottom line . . .

It is impossible to grow in your faith, understand who God is, and live the way He wants you to live without regularly studying His Word.

There are no Cliff’s Notes (or Wikipedia entries) for knowing God’s Word. Diligent study is required, but I am confident that if the old man were the one writing this post, he would tell you that without a doubt, the benefits of knowing God’s Word are worth the effort.

So how well do you know God’s Word? Wanna find out? Here are some questions to use as a litmus test. You’ll find the answers at the end.

The Quiz

  1. Name the Ten Commandments.
  2. Did you know? Sixty percent of Americans cannot name even five of the Ten Commandments?

  3. True or False: “God helps those who helps themselves” is a quote from the Bible.
  4. Did you know? Eighty-two percent of Americans would answer “yes”!

  5. Genesis tells the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. What were Sodom and Gomorrah?
    1. sisters
    2. a husband and wife
    3. two cities
  6. Did you know? Fifty percent of high school seniors think they are a husband and wife.

  7. Name the twelve disciples.
  8. Did you know? Research shows that most Christians cannot identify more than three disciples.

  9. Which of these quotes came from the Sermon on the Mount?
    1. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.”
    2. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.”
    3. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
    4. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
  10. Extra credit: Who preached the Sermon on the Mount?

Did you know? Only 37 percent of teenagers can answer this question correctly, and many teenagers think the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.

The Cheat Sheet

  1. Here is an abbreviated version of the Ten Commandments. Be sure to check out the real deal in Exodus 20:1–17.
    • No other gods before God.
    • No idols.
    • Do not take God’s name in vain.
    • Remember the Sabbath. Keep it holy.
    • Honor your father and mother.
    • Do not murder.
    • Do not commit adultery.
    • Do not steal.
    • Do not bear false witness.
    • Do not covet.
  2. False.
  3. Sodom and Gomorrah were cities destroyed by God because of their sin in Genesis 19.
  4. The names of the twelve disciples (also known as apostles) are listed in Matthew 10:2–4 and include: Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas.
  5. a. The Sermon on the Mount was preached by Jesus in Matthew 5–7.

The Grade

How’d ya do?

Option 1: You did great! You know your stuff. Why do you know your stuff? Because you make a habit of regularly reading God’s Word. But don’t give yourself too many gold stars yet. There’s still so much to learn. Here’s your homework: study the Bible often.

Option 2: You didn’t do so great. Here’s something to make you feel better—12 percent of high schoolers think that Joan of Ark was Noah’s wife. For real! The good news is that today is a great day to become someone who studies God’s Word. Here’s your homework: study the Bible often.

We’ll be talking more about why the Bible matters later this month. In the meantime, who are you more like—the old man who is willing to do the work to know the Word of God or the young man who isn’t?

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The Perfect Summer Internship

The Perfect Summer Internship

 

Summer is great. Swimming . . . yay! Watermelon seed spitting contests . . . uh huh! (Or is that just something we country girls do?) Fireworks, BBQs, telling the alarm clock to take a hike—these are the many perks of summer.

But let’s be honest, it’s only possible to have so many movie marathons before we all start to feel a little . . . bored.

You may not have hit the summer slump yet. (Some of you may still be smack dab in the middle of finals—yuck!) But I’ve got an idea to keep summer boredom far, far away.

Are you ready for it?

It’s the perfect summer internship!

I’m not suggesting you call up a doctor, a lawyer, or a dentist to shadow them for the summer. I’d rather prepare you for a more important role. This summer, I’d love for you to spend time learning the craft of motherhood.

A mom? Really?!

Yep, really!

Here are a few reasons why.

God sees children as a blessing.

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD.”

 

We don’t need to compare the Greek and the Hebrew here. We don’t need to ask a Bible professor to help us break this down. The Bible is clear. Children are a blessing from God.

Most moms would tell you that even though their children demand much of them, they are in fact a blessing.

But it doesn’t always feel that way, does it?

That’s because children demand much of us. They require us to alter our plans for our lives. They demand much of our schedule. They change our bodies.

It is very easy to look at parenting from the outside and think, No way! I don’t want any part of that.

That’s why you need an inside view. Most moms would tell you that even though their children demand much of them, they are in fact a blessing. But you’ve got to spend some time with moms to have these conversations, and you’ve got to spend some time with kiddos to realize that’s not just something moms say. God’s right. Children really are a gift.

God thinks moms rock!

God highly values mothers throughout His Word. We live in a culture that says motherhood is a lesser calling to getting a degree, having a great job, and traveling the world. But God doesn’t hold that view.

 

Moms have tremendous power to influence their kids toward following Jesus.

Why is God such a fan of moms? Because He sees them as missionaries! Moms don’t just do laundry, cook dinners, and dish out discipline. Moms are the first place most of us ever hear about God. For better or for worse, our moms are where we look for spiritual guidance and wisdom. Moms have tremendous power to influence their kids toward following Jesus.

God esteems moms because what they are doing matters so much. (Think about your own mom for a minute. Hasn’t she played a HUGE role in your faith?)

Moms need help!

I’m a mom of three boys under age seven. My house is always engulfed in beautiful chaos. An extra pair of hands to serve up plates of mac and cheese, bandage skinned knees, and help find Star Wars LEGOS would be welcome any day.

 

Yes, children are a blessing. Yes, motherhood is a ministry. But that doesn’t change the fact that motherhood is tough!

You could be a tremendous blessing to a mom in your world by offering to help a couple of mornings a week this summer. (If you happen to live in Nowheresville, Missouri like me . . . hook a momma up!)

Helping a mom gives you a chance to serve someone in need. The Bible promises that this is the way to get our hearts filled to the brim.

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered (Prov. 11:25).

If your heart is feeling a little dried up these days, serving someone else is just what you need! I know for certain that there’s a mom in your world who would love to be served in this way.

 

So, whadya say? Are you up for the perfect summer internship?

Leave me a comment below with your game plan.

And just in case you still need a little motivation to get off the couch, here’s a great video about motherhood. Watch it, then give your mom a hug and get to work.

 

World’s Toughest Job

 

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The Best Friend a Girl Could Want

The Best Friend a Girl Could Want

I’ve got a great friend.

He’s always available to listen to me and give advice. In fact, He gives better advice than anyone else I’ve ever known. He never steers me wrong. He is a capable and compassionate advisor.

He nudges me to be more like Jesus, gently pointing out sin in my life, and reminding me who God calls me to be.

When I am tempted, He pulls me toward an alternative, always reminding me that Jesus is better than the things my flesh desires.

When I am wobbly, He’s always on the scene ready to help. He’s never too busy for me. He’s always available.

He prays for me often. In fact, when I’m at the end of my rope and don’t have a clue what to pray, He just starts praying even harder. And let me tell you, when He prays, things happen.

He teaches me so much every single day. He’s the best friend a girl could hope for.

Want a friend like that? You can have it! Because these are the specific jobs of the Holy Spirit. (In fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.)

Here are some of the specific ways the Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers.

We can’t lose our salvation. The Holy Spirit seals it. And when you doubt if you are really saved, you can know you belong to God by the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

He is our counselor (John 14:16). Don’t think school guidance counselor, helping you pick which math class to take; think a great conversation with the wisest person you know. He listens to us and then points us toward God’s truth.

He dwells with us and lives in us (John 14:17). If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives in you. Don’t believe me? Check out Jesus’ words:

“Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (emphasis added).

Remember that the Holy Spirit is God.

God dwells with you and in you! That’s a game changer. It means we are never alone. We are never without help. We aren’t left to try to figure everything out on our own. The Holy Spirit is with us and in us. Mind blowing, right?

He is our teacher (John 14:26). Have you ever been in a situation and suddenly a Bible passage just pops into your head? Have you ever learned a truth about God even without hearing your pastor preach on it? That’s the Holy Spirit! It’s His job to teach us about the things of God. Just like in school, the teacher can’t force us to listen in class or apply what we’ve learned. That’s our job.

He makes us more like Jesus (Rom. 15:16, Gal. 5:22–23). It is the Holy Spirit’s job to sanctify us. That’s a churchy word that simply means to make holy. The fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Brownie points if you have them all memorized!) It is the Holy Spirit’s job to make us more like Jesus. It’s not something we can do for ourselves. The Holy Spirit makes the difference between a good girl and a godly girl.

He convicts us of sin (John 16:8). You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you’ve sinned? That’s from the Holy Spirit. Even though it may not feel like it, conviction is a gift because it reminds us of the holy standard God calls us to.

He keeps us away from sin (Gal. 5:16).

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Listening to the Holy Spirit keeps us from getting trapped by sin.

He changes our hearts (John 14:26, Rom. 8:14, 1 Cor. 2:6–14). Can’t seem to forgive that girl who hurt you? Can’t stop thinking about that guy who’s no good for you? Can’t stop thoughts of jealousy from swirling in your head? That’s because it’s nearly impossible for us to change our own hearts. (We can change our behavior, but that’s not the same thing.) Ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart. That’s His job.

He prays for us (Rom. 8:26).

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

I love this promise! When you don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for you.

He seals us (Eph. 1:11–14).

Paul describes the Holy Spirit as a seal that guarantees the inheritance (heaven) that God has promised us.

We can’t lose our salvation. The Holy Spirit seals it. And when you doubt if you are really saved, you can know you belong to God by the evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Have you seen the Holy Spirit work in these ways in your life? Leave me a comment to tell me about it.

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Why Doesn't God Speak Out Loud to Me?

Why Doesn't God Speak Out Loud to Me?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

We study God through His Word each Thursday on the blog. Our goal is to present the truth of God in a way you can digest and apply. This week we’ll continue our conversation on how we hear the voice of God.

Last week, we looked at four ways God speaks. Here’s a recap:

  • God speaks to us through creation (Ps. 19:1).
  • God speaks to us through our conscience (Rom. 2:15).
  • God speaks to us through Jesus (Heb. 1:1–2).
  • God speaks to us through His Word (Heb. 4:12).

Here are four more ways we can hear the voice of God.

The Holy Spirit speaks to us.

Acts 8:27–29 records Philip hearing from God:

And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”

Something similar happened to Peter in Acts 10:19–21:

And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?”

In both cases, the Spirit gave very specific instructions.

Learning to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit takes some practice.

The Holy Spirit still speaks in this way. When you’re sitting in math class and you feel a sudden compulsion to go and talk to that lonely girl in the corner, that is likely the Holy Spirit telling you how God wants you to minister in that moment. When you’re in the middle of a fight with your mom and something inside you tells you to stop yelling and get quiet, it’s possible the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do what God has written in His Word by honoring her.

Learning to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit takes some practice. But once we learn the voice of the Holy Spirit, we are wise to follow the lead of Philip and Peter in the stories above and immediately obey.

We’ll talk more about the job of the Holy Spirit in next week’s Theology Thursday post.

God speaks to us through the Church.

In Acts 13:1–3, Paul and Barnabas receive specific instructions for missions work from the Holy Spirit, but pay close attention to who confirms the calling:

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Paul and Barnabas were in a church service, worshiping and seeking the Lord with other believers, when the Holy Spirit spoke clearly. They obeyed, but first they prayed with the other believers in the room and were sent out with their blessing.

God often uses other Christians to confirm what God is saying to us. There is wise accountability in surrounding yourself with other believers who can help you discern God’s voice.

God speaks to us through visions and dreams.

There are many occasions in the Bible where God speaks to people through visions and dreams. Here are just a few examples:

  • Daniel recorded his visions in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.
  • Abimelech was visited by God in a dream in Genesis 20 after sinning.
  • Isaiah had a vision of God in heaven, which he recorded in the book of Isaiah.
  • Joseph (the shepherd with the fancy coat) received a prophecy about what was going to happen to his people through a dream in Genesis 37.
  • Joseph (Jesus’ stepdad) had a dream in which an angel told him to take Mary as his wife in Matthew 1. Matthew 2:13 records “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt.’”

Since Malachi 3:6 tells us that God does not change, we can know that He is still capable of speaking to people through dreams and visions.

Joel 2:28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

Job 33:14–16 confirms that dreams are one way that God speaks to His people:

For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings.

While hearing from God in dreams and visions has never been the norm, there is clear evidence that this is one way He chooses to speak to His people.

God speaks out loud.

Both Jesus (Mark 1:11) and Paul (Acts 9:3–6) heard the audible voice of God speak from heaven. Moses heard the voice of God boom from a burning bush in Exodus 3.

God doesn’t need to speak out loud to us; He has written so much down for us in His Word.

It is possible for God to speak out loud to us, but it’s rare.

I know what you’re thinking (because I’ve thought it, too!). I wish God would give me a vision of heaven! I wish I could hear God speak out loud. I think we all have a tendency to want to have a conversation with God like we do with our best friend. But God doesn’t need to speak out loud to us; He has written so much down for us in His Word. Instead of waiting for some mystical experience in which God speaks, we can read His thoughts over and over in our Bibles.

Here are some great thoughts by John Piper on this, written after he had a dramatic encounter with the voice of God.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to guess about who God is or how He wants you to live. He has proven over and over that He is ready and willing to speak to us. We can hear from Him every single day through His Word.

How about you? How have you heard God speak?

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Giving God the All-In Card

Giving God the All-In Card

I was traveling recently and met a young woman who was doing big things for God. Things that stretch her beyond her comfort zone. Things that make her weird or different from other girls her age. Things that force her to lay her plans for her own life on the altar of God’s will.

When I asked her how she started down the radical path she was on, she said:

“Simple. A few years ago, I gave God the all-in card.

I doubt she offered God a physical card. But in her heart, she told God, “I’m all in. You can have every part of my life.”

It was a prayer God heard and responded to. It is a prayer not many of us pray.

But Elisha did!

In 1 Kings 19:19–21, we find a little story jam-packed with truth about what it means to really go all in for God. With talk of oxen and cloaks, the context may seem a little odd, but stick with me as I introduce one of my favorite people of all time—Elisha. (I love him so much because he went all in!)

So [Elijah] departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

Here’s the backstory: Elijah was a powerful prophet whom God used to clean up the land of Israel by kicking out false gods. Elijah’s mission was to call people back to a pure worship of God. In 1 Kings 19, Elijah had a little breakdown. He got super stressed because living on mission cost him a lot. In fact, the leaders of the nation wanted to kill him because of his preaching.

I’ll shoot you straight—giving God the all-in card usually comes with a cost. Elijah vented about all of this to God, and God responded by giving Elijah instructions to anoint Elisha as his successor. That’s where we pick things up in verse 19. Elijah finds Elisha in the field, he puts his cloak on him as a sign of taking him under his wing as an apprentice of sorts, and just like that Elisha is faced with the choice to go all in or to settle for a lukewarm faith.

Elisha went all in.

“Let me kiss my father and mother, and then I will follow you” (1 Kings 19:20).

Then he destroyed the oxen and headed off into a whole new life singularly focused on serving the Lord. Elisha didn’t hesitate. He didn’t play twenty questions with Elijah to make sure everything would work out according to his plan. He didn’t do a risk assessment. He kissed his old life goodbye and watched it burn.

Whatever’s keeping you from surrendering your whole life to God cannot compare to the adventure He has for you.

That’s what it looks like to go all in.

If your first reaction to Elisha’s bold response is to be afraid of what going all in might cost you, I want you to know that’s normal. We all have parts of our life we have a tendency to cling to. Going all in means putting those things all on the table and inviting God to do what He wants with them. That’s scary!

But for some perspective, consider what Elisha’s life would have been like if he had not gone all in.

On his very best day, he would have nothing to show for his life but a well-plowed field. He would spend his days looking at the hind end of an ox instead of the magnificent displays of God’s power he would experience in ministry.

Have you ever told God you’re all in? Have you surrendered every corner of your life and invited Him to do His will above yours?

If not, what’s keeping you from giving God the all-in card? What are you holding back from Him? What parts of your life are off limits to His control? Whatever it is, it cannot compare to the adventure God has for you. A life spent living lukewarm will ultimately look like plowing the same ol’ field year after year. Sure, there may be neat lines and familiar paths, but it’s still just a pile of dirt compared to what life totally surrendered to God’s plan looks like.

With that in mind, are you willing to go all in?

PS: Parts of this post are taken from my book My Name Is Erin: One Girl’s Mission to Make a Difference.

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If Your Donkey Doesn't Talk, Does God?

If Your Donkey Doesn't Talk, Does God?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

We study God through His Word each Thursday on the blog. Our goal is to present the truth of God in a way you can digest and apply. This week we’ll look at how we hear the voice of God.

A talking donkey

A burning bush

A quiet wind

A voice from heaven

A big book

A sheep fleece

A rainbow

A pillar of fire

A cloud of smoke

What do these things have in common?

They were each used as a mouthpiece of God, a tool through which He chose to speak to His people.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard the voice of God thunder from a burning bush. I am the proud owner of one ornery donkey named Bart, but I’ve never heard God’s voice boom through his bridle. I’ve never had a conversation with God in the same way I could talk to you if we were grabbing coffee together right now. (Caramel latte extra whip here, please!)

I believe that God still speaks to His people, but how does He do it?

If I want to hear the voice of God (I do! Don’t you?), where should I be listening?

Jesus put it this way:

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:4–5, emphasis added).

Just like a herd of sheep that follow the shepherd wherever he leads because they have learned to recognize the sound of his voice, we can become confident and obedient followers of Christ because when we hear Him speak, we know it’s Him. In other words, part of knowing God is knowing how to recognize His voice.

So how exactly does God speak? Here are four ways you can hear the voice of God.

God speaks through creation.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the gory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 8:1 says, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”

No one can ever say they’ve never heard of God, because He chooses to let creation speak to us about what kind of God He is.

A beautiful sunset is God’s way of saying to us, “I am majestic!” A towering mountain peak or the waves crashing on a beach of sand are how He tells us about His magnificence. God has a message He wants to say to us about his glory and majesty. Creation is the billboard through which He speaks about these things.

That’s why Paul said, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Creation is God’s first missionary. No one can ever say they’ve never heard of God, because He chooses to let creation speak to us about what kind of God He is.

This can get a little trippy. Creation itself is not God. We do not worship trees or flowers or birds. And creation itself does not speak on behalf of God. It doesn’t work like in Lord of the Rings, where the trees audibly speak as God’s messengers.

It’s more simple than that. God speaks to us about His character through the majesty of creation.

God speaks through our conscience.

Do you remember Jiminy Cricket? He was the adorable little cricket in a top hat who served as Pinocchio’s conscience in the iconic Disney movie Pinocchio.

We seem to live in an era that thinks Jiminy Cricket is dead. While the culture says that anything goes and that individuals are free to determine their own version of right and wrong, the Bible teaches a different truth.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Rom. 2:14–15, emphasis added).

God wrote His law onto our hearts so that each of us would know right from wrong. That’s why as children, we knew we shouldn’t lie, steal, or punch even if our parents had not taught us that specific lesson yet. God speaks to us about who He is and how He wants us to live through our conscience. (Wouldn’t it be nice if we each had our own top hat-wearing cricket to help translate?)

God speaks to us through Jesus.

We don’t have to guess about who God is or how He wants us to live. He told us clearly and then took the time to write it down.

Have you ever wondered why we no longer have prophets like they did in the Old Testament, who relayed a specific message from the Lord? (Think Jonah’s message to Nineveh or Moses’ message to Pharaoh.)

Hebrews 1:1–2 gives us a very specific answer:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

When we study Jesus’ sermons and teachings, we are hearing from God. If you want to hear from God, study the words of Jesus.

A great place to start is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5–7.

God speaks to us through His Word.

We don’t have to guess about who God is or how He wants us to live. He told us clearly and then took the time to write it down. Hebrews 4:12 says that the Bible is a living book—that’s because it was inspired by and points to a living God.

You don’t have to strain your ear and try to imagine the voice of God on the wind. You don’t have to wonder if you’re hearing your thoughts or God speaking in your head. God speaks to you through His Word. Studying the Bible is how you learn to recognize His voice.

Next week we will look at four more ways that God speaks to His people. Until then, I’d love to hear from you. Do you feel like you have ever heard God speak? How do you recognize the voice of God?

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Who Are You, God?

Come worship Christ and learn how to live in His fullness with thousands of your sisters at True Woman ’14 in Indianapolis on October 9–11. Only 24 days left for early registration.

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Who Are You, God?

Come worship Christ and learn how to live in His fullness with thousands of your sisters at True Woman ’14 in Indianapolis on October 9–11. Only 24 days left for early registration.

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Five Extra Reasons To Celebrate

fireworksI wish I could have the readers of this blog over for a big BBQ this evening. We’d eat summer food (think corn on the cob, popsicles, and juicy hamburgers). We’d chase lightning bugs, and once the sun set, we’d all pile on a blanket (that would be one HUGE blanket!) and watch the fireworks.

I do love the Fourth of July. It’s great to celebrate our freedoms as a nation, but this year I’ve been thinking of some of the even greater freedoms we have—freedoms that don’t belong to Americans alone—those that are promised to us by God because we are His children, citizens of His kingdom.

What is freedom exactly? It’s the state of being unchained or liberated from something or someone. The earliest American citizens set off fireworks on this date many years ago to specifically celebrate their freedom from the King of England. That’s still a victory worth celebrating, but the Bible promises us freedom from so much more.

Second Corinthians 3:17 gives us this beautiful promise:

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

God is the in the freedom business. Because of Him, we are free from forces even more oppressive than a foreign king. Every once in a while it’s good to remember all that God has liberated us from. As Christians we are free from …

Sin
Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Sin had us in a chokehold. We were chained to it. Other places in Scripture remind us that we were once slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17), but because of what Jesus did on the cross we don’t have to live our lives bound to sin any longer. Paul’s words are a wise reminder to live like the free people we are and to refuse to be chained to sin ever again.

Fear
Being an American doesn’t insulate us from fear. There are wars being fought with our soldiers, terrorists who strike in our very own cities, economic challenges, moral decline…. That scary list could go on and on. The truth is, in every country in the world, there are things to be afraid of, but God offers us freedom from fear because He is sovereign. We can trust Him. There is nothing He cannot handle.

Isaiah 41:10 reminds us to live as people free from fear.

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Worry
God also offers us a ticket off of the hamster wheel of worry. Worry can make us feel out of control, upset, and paranoid. God asks us to choose freedom by handing our worries off to Him instead (Phil. 4:6).

The Opinions of Others
Living for others is exhausting. Trying to be popular or liked all the time will simply never work. God must know that, because He tells us how to be free from living for the applause of others.

Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”

A Me-Focused Life
Romans 12:3 urges us not to think of ourselves too highly. Philippians 2:3 asks us to consider others more important than ourselves.

This one may not feel like freedom at first, but God is really handing us the keys out of the prisons of purposelessness, selfishness, and an all-about-me attitude. When we live like the world revolves around us, we must carry the weight of that world on our shoulders. God gives us an alternative. There is truly freedom in living like others matter more than ourselves.

So as you twirl your sparklers tonight and eat your funnel cake, certainly celebrate your position as a free citizen of the USA, but also celebrate all that God has promised you freedom from. Thank Him that where He is, there is deep and lasting freedom, and choose to live like the free girl that you are.

What has God set you free from? Leave me a comment to tell me about it. I promise I’ll read every one and celebrate with you (right after I chow down on a big slice of watermelon!).

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There's A Hole In My Sidewalk

My pastor recently read us this short, five-chapter story as a way to explain the progression of temptation in each of our lives.
hole in sidewalk

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

So many of you have written to us lately that you feel trapped in patterns of sin. For you the image of sin being like a hole you’ve fallen into and must struggle to get out of probably makes a lot sense. That’s how sin feels, isn’t it? Maybe that’s why Isaiah 38:17 describes our lives without God as a “pit of destruction.”

If you’re in a pit of sin, whether you’ve fallen in willingly or unwillingly, it’s so important for you to understand that you don’t have to stay there. But just like avoiding that hole in the sidewalk, it’s also important for you make the hard choices necessary to avoid the sin pit the next time it’s in your path.

The Bible describes the sidewalk scenario this way:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14–15).

Let’s break that down …

First, we desire something that is outside of God’s best. Maybe it’s a desire to find our worth in what others think of us or a desire to be noticed by the guys around us. Maybe we desire more stuff or revenge or for the world to revolve around us just for a minute.

Those desires may not exactly be “sinful,” but they open a hole in the sidewalk. We find ourselves in trouble when we willingly walk toward it.

Sin happens when we jump into that hole. We start doing whatever it takes to get noticed, and suddenly we are trapped in sexual sin or wrapped up in gossip or pride because we fed our desire for attention. We sit at the bottom of the pit of selfishness or unforgivneness because we allowed our desire for those things to change our behavior.

And the pit is dark. And we are afraid. And if we stay there we will face death—death of potential, death of relationships, death of intimacy with the One who died to save us from the “pit of destruction.”

This is why we must always be on the lookout for holes in the sidewalk—traps that would lure us into sin. It is also why when we find ourselves trapped by sin, we must turn and run down a different street. The Bible says that this way:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13).

God has promised that He will always, always, always provide another street for you to walk down. You don’t have to keep walking down the same path and falling into the same pit. You don’t have to climb out on your own either. God has provided a way out.

So what are the holes in your sidewalk? What are the desires swirling in your head right now that make you vulnerable to the “pit of destruction”? Let me encourage you to take that question to God through prayer, and ask Him to show you if you’re walking toward a hole.

And if you’re already in the hole, even if you’ve been in the hole a really long time, be encouraged that God’s Word says that God will give you a way out. You do not have to stay in the pit. True, it will likely require you to walk down a whole new street. You will have to choose a radical change in direction. New streets can be scary and uncomfortable, but they sure beat life in a hole. How is God encouraging you to choose a new street?

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