Praying the Scriptures for Your Children

When I was only twelve weeks along with my first-born son, the doctor called us with some devastating news. The baby’s tiny bladder was blocked, meaning he couldn’t process amniotic fluid and wasn’t expected to survive the pregnancy. My husband and I immediately decided that I would carry the baby to term despite the diagnosis. That decision launched us into a season of prayer unlike anything we had ever experienced before.

I quickly realized that I didn’t have the words to ask God to respond the way I wanted Him too. All I could pray was, “Don’t let him die!” but that didn’t really capture the mighty work I was asking God to do.

So I started praying Scriptures for my son.

During that season of intense prayer, when I didn’t know what words to say, I learned the power of praying the Scriptures for my children.

I often prayed “Lord, every good and perfect gift is from you (James 1:17). Please let this gift be born perfect, and without defects.”  Many, many days I prayed Psalm 139 which promises that God was forming my son in the depths of my womb and had His hand on even my baby’s inmost parts. I asked God to make the “inmost parts” of my baby’s bladder and kidneys whole and healthy. I quoted James 5:15 often to God. That verse says, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up.” I also prayed Romans 8:28 and asked God to work the entire situation for my good.

During that season of intense prayer, when I didn’t know what words to say, I learned the power of praying the Scriptures for my children.

When my baby was born, Nancy mailed me a book titled Praying the Scriptures for Your Children. It has been an invaluable resource in teaching me how to pray for my kids. It outlines specific passages of Scripture to pray for your child in areas like your child’s salvation, spiritual protection, your child’s marriage and purpose in life.

In the forward for that book, Fern Nichols writes:

“I believe the greatest influence a mom can have in the life of her child is through prayer. As she stands in the gap for her beloved child, the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth hears and answers her prayers . . . One of the most powerful [prayer] principles is Scripture praying. When we pray the promises of God for our children, our faith increases because we are praying back the very words of God.”

I now pray God’s Word for my kids as often as possible.

When they are struggling in an area of behavior I don’t just say, “God, make them behave!” instead I pray “Lord, I know that lacking self-control makes my kids vulnerable to the Enemy (Pro. 25:28). Self-control comes from your Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:23); please teach them self-control through your Spirit.”

Instead of just asking God to change my kids, I find Scriptures that apply to my children’s needs and then turn my heart toward those specific truths.

Instead of saying, “keep them pure,” I pray, “Lord, hide your word in their hearts so that they don’t want to sin against you” (Ps. 119:11).

Do you see how that works? Instead of just asking God to change my kids, I find Scriptures that apply to my children’s needs and then turn my heart toward those specific truths.

Does it work? You betcha. In fact, allow me introduce you to some proof. Meet Elisha. My strong, happy three-year-old with a healthy bladder. He’s a good and perfect gift alright, formed by the hand of an exceedingly loving God.

Best of 2013: Praying for More Than ‘Safe’

We’re celebrating God’s faithfulness here on the True Woman blog with some of our favorite posts from 2013. We trust these posts will help you start your year off with a God-centered focus.

I pen these words a few days after a bomber took out an eight-year-old as he waited for his dad to cross the finish line of the Boston marathon. There’s not a single day I drop my son off at preschool that I don’t think about Sandy Hook and have to fight the urge to do a U-turn in the school parking lot, bring him home, and lock all the doors. Then there are super viruses, bacterial infections, and childhood cancers. It’s enough to make me want to say this desperate prayer all day, every day, “Jesus, keep my kids safe. Jesus, keep my kids safe. JESUS, PLEASE KEEP MY KIDS SAFE!”

Is it possible that God wants to call our children to something dangerous?

But our kids aren’t growing up in a safe world. In fact, no child ever has.

It’s natural to want our children to be protected from harm, but lately I’ve been thinking that when we spend all our energy praying for our children to be safe, we are missing something big. We are asking God to be our children’s safety net. Is it possible that instead He wants to call them to something dangerous?

This is how Jesus taught us to pray:

“And [Jesus] said to them,
‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:2–4)

Jesus doesn’t teach us to avoid asking for needs to be met. “Daily bread” represents the essentials of life. Health and safety certainly qualify. But asking for those things wasn’t the essence of His prayer. His focus was on the Father’s will.

The Christian life is not a safe life. It is

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a call to live counter-culturally and to willingly engage in battles that are big and costly.

The words “your kingdom come” slay me when I think about praying for my children. I spend so much of my time praying for my kingdom. I am supposed to be praying for His.

With God’s kingdom in mind, is safe the most important thing for my kids to be? When I look hard at the life God calls us to as Christians, the answer is clearly no. The Christian life is not a safe life. It is a call to live counter-culturally and to willingly engage in battles that are big and costly.

Ephesians 6:12 offers this perspective:

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

We want our children to follow Christ, but that likely won’t lead to an easy, safe life. It means they will need to pick up their cross. It means they will need to lay down their lives. It means they will become warriors in battles against the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It means they won’t always be “safe.”  

I have a friend who has often prayed this prayer for me:

“Jesus, make Erin and her family dangerous to the Enemy.”

Dangerous? It’s the opposite of safe. But the truth is no matter how much we wish it wasn’t so, there is no guarantee of safety in this world. And while it may temporarily soothe our anxiety to beg the Lord to hide our kids from all threats of harm, there is a better prayer we can be praying:

“Lord, make my child dangerous to the Enemy.”

It’s a prayer that may not wrap us up in comfort like begging the Lord to keep our kids safe has a tendency to do. It is a bigger prayer with bigger implications than a safety net can ever offer. But decades from now, after I am long gone and my kids come to the end of their own lives, if I’m honest, I hope they won’t have played it safe. I hope they will have given everything they have to further God’s kingdom. I hope others will see they were a serious threat to those spiritual forces of evil. As their momma, prayer is a huge part of my job, so I’m resolved to pray for more than safety. Yes, I want them to be protected, but even more than that, I want them to be dangerous.

Will you join me in praying for God to make our kids a generation that is especially dangerous to the Enemy?

Immanuel Changes Everything

The book of 1 Samuel records a great battle between the people of God, the Israelites, and one of their fiercest enemies, the Philistines. Israel lost 4,000 men on the battlefield in a single day. In the face of such crushing defeat, the elders of Israel called for the Ark of the Covenant to be brought into the camp to rally the troops and boost morale.

First Samuel 4:5–7 reports, “As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting they said, ‘What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?’ And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid, for they said, ‘A god has come into the camp.’ And they said, ‘Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before.'”

God is alive and well and involved in the lives of His people.

The Ark of the Covenant was a visible sign of the holy presence of God. God didn’t live in that box, of course, but it was a reminder God was alive and well and involved in the lives of His people.

Because of this, when the Ark came into the camp, the Bible tells us the people of God celebrated so loudly the earth shook.

Talk about a celebration!

But what caused much rejoicing among the people of God caused much fear among their enemies.

The Philistines said three things we need to pay attention to:

  1. A god has come into the camp.
  2. Woe to us!
  3. Nothing like this has happened before.

Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it.

Fast-forward to the Christmas story recorded in the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us) (Matt. 1:23).

Of course, this passage is talking about the birth of Jesus, but don’t miss one of the other names for Jesus—Immanuel. The prophets had foretold that people would refer to Him in this way all the way back in Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

God wanted His people to know and to wait with expectation for the day He would dwell among them. Pause for a moment. Let your mind be blown.

  • God among us.
  • The God who created all things, among us.
  • The God who knows all things, among us.
  • The God who reigns. The God who rules. The God whose power knows no limits, among us.

Immanuel is a very big deal.

God left heaven and came to earth to be with us. To rescue us. But when He ascended into heaven, He did not leave us alone.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, we need to take a minute to hone in on Immanuel. God left heaven and came to earth to be with us. To rescue us. But when He ascended into heaven, He did not leave us alone.

In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

No matter what, He remains “God with us.”

And if we’re telling the whole story, we see this radical reality still has the same effect on God’s enemies.

Remember what the Philistines said?

  1. A god has come into the camp.
  2. Woe to us!
  3. Nothing like this has happened before.

You better believe God’s enemy, Satan, is still singing that tune this Christmas.

  1. God is with them!
  2. Woe to me! Translation: I’m ruined.
  3. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

He came to be with us to save us from sin and death. He came to be with us because we so desperately need to be rescued.

You see, Christmas is about so much more than the Babe in the manger. He didn’t come to be with us so that we could look over the edge of His crib and ooh and ah. He came to be with us, to die for our sins . . . to rise from the grave . . . to deal a fatal blow to our shared enemy. He came to be with us to save us from sin and death. He came to be with us because we so desperately need to be rescued.

So celebrate that this Christmas. Celebrate so loudly that others notice. Take a cue from the people of Israel, and dance until the earth shakes. Because Immanuel changes everything.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us) (Matt. 1:23).

To examine other characters from the Christmas story, visits these posts by Erin Davis on

Sinking Your Teeth into the Promises of God

The Original Grinch

What Should We Do for Jesus?

A Closer Look at Mary’s Dream Guy

The Bravest Sentence in the Bible

Inhospitable Hospitality

‘Tis the season to be hospitable.

One thing I love about the Christmas season is we tend to look over the fences that so often separate us from those near by and say, “Come on in.” We host Christmas parties and dinners. We blow up the airbeds and set out the guest towels and invite family members from out of town to stay awhile. We bake. We clean. We decorate. We host.

All this is a very good thing! We tend to think of hospitality as a character trait reserved for those with natural Martha Stewart-like capabilities. But did you know the Bible urges all of us to demonstrate hospitality?

It’s true!

Romans 12:13 says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

1 Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another . . .” (But there’s a catch. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

When I make my home an inhospitable environment for the people I love most in order to make it welcoming for others, I’m missing God’s heart for hospitality.

What is hospitality exactly? I like to think of it as providing a soft place to land in a world that is often hard to take. There are lots of verses throughout the entire Bible that encourage us to practice hospitality; especially toward those who belong to what Galatians 6:10 calls “the household of faith” (i.e. other Christians).

But let’s get real. Those cookies don’t bake themselves. Guests make messes. They upset routines. They give us the overwhelming urge to dust the baseboards. Christmas parties and dinners take a lot of time, money, and effort on our parts. The Food Network makes it all look so easy, but often it isn’t.

I don’t know about you, but as I seek to be hospitable toward others, I tend to be inhospitable toward the members of my own family. I bark out orders to my husband and children. I sigh heavily under the false sense that no one but me is doing any of the work. I grumble about the money spent, the time invested, the floors that need swept (again!).

Remember 1 Peter 4:9? I told you there was a catch. The entire verse reads,

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

When I make my home an inhospitable environment (as in hostile, cold, and unwelcoming) for the people I love most in order to make it welcoming for others, I’m missing God’s heart for hospitality.

Yes! Invite people over to your home. Yes! Seek to provide warm meals and warm fuzzies. Yes! Create a soft spot for others to land. But do it without grumbling. Because a peaceful home flows out of a peaceful heart.

Colossians 3:23–24 is a great mantra for each of us to adopt this holiday season:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

The goal of hospitality is not to win a prize for cleanest house, best meal, or coziest bed. The goal is to demonstrate Christ’s love in practical and tangible ways. Since He is the One we are ultimately serving, in order to demonstrate true hospitality, His priorities (people), must become our priorities.

Don’t work to earn gold stars and oohs and aahs this year. Work to put Christ on display.


So . . . seek to bless others during this busy season. Look for ways to show hospitality. But start with those closest to you. How can you demonstrate hospitality to your husband? Your children? Your co-workers?

And remember to give with a happy heart. A store-bought pie served with a smile is of much greater value than a homemade one made through gritted teeth. Don’t work to earn gold stars and oohs and aahs this year. Work to put Christ on display. What could be better than that?

I’d love to hear all about your holiday plans. Tell me how you’ll be showing hospitality toward others this year, and we’ll choose five of you on Thursday, December 12, to win Nancy’s message, “The Heart Of Hospitality” on CD.

When Gratitude Isn’t So Warm and Fuzzy

These days my thoughts have drifted to the Pilgrims.

We tend to romanticize that first Thanksgiving. We imagine happy Pilgrims sitting over steaming plates of food and kindly asking their Indian guests to “please pass the potatoes.” It’s all so quaint—but our retellings of history have a way of puffing up the happy stuff and glossing over grim realities.

The first Thanksgiving wasn’t necessarily about celebrating abundance. It was more about celebrating God’s presence in the midst of great trial.

The first Thanksgiving feast occurred in 1621. True, there were Indians there. History records that ninety members of the Wampanoag tribe were present.

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Of the 100 pilgrims who boarded the Mayflower in search of a new life, only fifty-three remained alive to eat the first Thanksgiving feast.

Which brings me to my point. (You just thought I was a history nerd, didn’t you?) The first Thanksgiving wasn’t necessarily about celebrating abundance. It was more about celebrating God’s presence in the midst of great trial.

The Pilgrims landed in New England after a treacherous journey. They spent their first winter on the boat because conditions didn’t allow them to build the new life they dreamed of on shore. Half the pilgrims died from exposure, malnutrition, and illness.

The real story doesn’t paint a pretty picture. It doesn’t hold up well to our Norman Rockwell and Martha Stewart visions of brined turkey and fall centerpieces. Sure there was food and fellowship, but that wasn’t the spirit of why they gathered.

They gathered because they chose to be thankful when bitterness, discouragement, doubt, and despair seemed like more logical options.

The Bible calls Thanksgiving a sacrifice (Ps. 107:22, 116:17; Jonah 2:9).

Giving thanks may not feel much like a sacrifice when the turkey is fat and the children’s cheeks are ruddy. Yet even in our current state of abundance, many of us find it difficult to take the time to thank God for all He’s done.

When life is hard and the days are dark and cold, thanking God is the response I can choose.

But when our plans go terribly wrong, our finances fail, our expectations are thwarted, or the smell of death is close by . . . then Thanksgiving becomes truly a sacrifice.

The truth is: life can be really, really hard. And yet,

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).

How can this be?

Sorry for skipping around on the holiday calendar a bit, but when we are struggling with giving thanks, we need to remember what happened on Easter. Jesus died on the cross to save each of us from our sins. He paid a penalty we could never pay, freeing us from the bondage of sin and death. That alone should set our hearts into perpetual thankful mode. But three days after His sacrificial death, Jesus rose from the grave. He is alive!

Even when life is really, really hard we can be thankful for the great hope we have in a living God. Nothing can stop Him. Nothing can hold Him. The lengths He went to to demonstrate His love for us should cause gratitude to perpetually bubble up in our hearts.

I am thankful for that first Thanksgiving and all the turkey dinners it has afforded me. But this year, I am thankful for the deeper lesson that when life is hard and the days are dark and cold, thanking God is the response I can choose.

It’s a lesson I’m sure God will need to remind me of next year and the year after that. But God seems willing to keep teaching about thanksgiving, even to slow learners like me. For that, I am thankful.

Even if your circumstances are difficult, what can you thank the living God for this year? Leave us a comment with your answer by Monday, December 2, and I will choose five of you to win a copy of Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Should You Have Kids If You Can’t Afford Them?

Americans are having less babies. A lot less babies. The U.S. birth rate has fallen dramatically in recent years. In fact birth rates among women between the ages of 25-29 are the lowest they’ve been since 1976. Those women who are having babies are waiting longer than ever to do so. The average age of…

A “Good Girl” Wrestles with the Gospel

I’ve always been a “good girl.”

Straight A student. Rarely in trouble. Picked the right college, the right fella, the right outfit. You get the idea.

Turning my life over to Jesus ripped my story into two halves: life before Him and life after Him. Still, there isn’t a lot of drama in the “before” part. No skeletons in the closet. No criminal record. No massive public failures.

The achievements, accomplishments, and attitudes we polish up squeaky clean are destined to end up looking like filthy rags next to God’s holiness.

I know this is why the gospel has always gone down smooth for me. Yes, God forgave me of my sins. Yes, that is good news. But honestly, there wasn’t that much to forgive. I’m a good girl, remember?

But I’ve been walking with the Lord for almost two decades now. And the strangest thing has happened. The longer I know Him, the more familiar I become with His Word, the uglier my heart looks. It’s like one of those optical illusion pictures that just looks like a bunch of squiggles at first. But the longer you stare, the more the edges of a hidden image start to emerge.

Unfortunately, the image of my heart is not a pretty picture.

Sure, my behavior screams “good girl.”

But my deceitful heart whispers . . .

  • Jealousy
  • Pride
  • Envy
  • Hate
  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Greed

So a wrestling match has begun in me. Suddenly, I am painfully aware of my desperate need for grace.

Here’s the truth: there are no good girls.

The Bible tells us no one is good except God (Rom. 3:10). The achievements, accomplishments, and attitudes we polish up squeaky clean are destined to end up looking like filthy rags next to God’s holiness (Isa. 64:6).

I keep on sinning. My sin nature seems to be super glued to me. Being a good girl doesn’t dissolve its adhesive effect. Following the rules doesn’t make me righteous. Acting like Pollyanna isn’t the same as having a pure heart.

I am thankful the dam of my goodness has broken, because God’s huge grace is what has come pouring through.

So week after week, as the communion cup is passed, I wrestle and I weep. It has taken my entire life, but my good girl façade has cracked.

On my very best days I am still a sinner. But while the bad news has been pinning me to the mat lately, the good news keeps picking me up and dusting me off:


“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1)

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

I am thankful the dam of my goodness has broken, because God’s huge grace is what has come pouring through. The gospel doesn’t always feel good. Facing up to the reality of our sin hurts. But when I wrestle with the gospel, the gospel always wins.

No, being a good girl is not enough. But the grace of a good God is.

Not-so-good girls like me find that to be very Good News.

Who Knew Marriage Could Be Lonely?

I’m in the middle of writing a book about loneliness. It doesn’t drop until next year, but I can give you a sneak peak. Chapter 1: God wired us for connection Chapter 2: We’ve gotten a little sidetracked in our understanding of what connection really is. Chapter 3: A bunch of us are really, really…

When God Rewrites Your Job Description

As a woman, what’s your job in your home?

Give me your answer in 3, 2, 1 . . .

I know it probably didn’t take you three seconds to answer that simple question. In fact, I bet in those three seconds you came up with a list something like:

  • Wife
  • Mom
  • Grandma
  • Cook
  • Maid
  • Chauffeur
  • Menu Planner
  • Event Planner
  • Fun Planner
  • Disciplinarian
  • Floor Scrubber
  • Medic
  • Lawn Keeper
  • Seamstress
  • Accountant
  • Interior Decorator

I could go on. We’re all spinning lots of plates.

In fact, several months ago I was struggling to keep all the aforementioned plates spinning. I was praying for right perspective on my priorities when I felt the Holy Spirit rewrite my job description.

“Your job is to be a Comforter.”

“Come again, Lord?”

“Your job in this home is to be a Comforter.”

That seemed like a massive oversimplification to me. But considering how exhausting it was to try and be the end-all, be-all, I was willing to do some investigating.

I discovered that God is the original Comforter.

In Isaiah 51:12 He says, “I, I am he who comforts you.” Second Corinthians 1:3 calls Him the “God of all comfort.” Psalm 23:4 reminds us that God’s rod and staff (power and protection) are a source of comfort even in dark valleys.

Being a comforter to others is part of the character of God, but what does that have to do with me?

I am like the moon.

The moon doesn’t give off any light of its own. It simply reflects the sun. According to Genesis 1:26–27, my design as a woman is carefully crafted to reflect the character of God. One of the qualities I am uniquely equipped to reflect is the role of comforter.

My design as a woman is carefully crafted to reflect the character of God.

Certainly men can be comforters, too, but not in the unique ways we can as women. I’m able to comfort my husband like no other can. I’m able to comfort my children like no other can. I’m able to extend comfort to others through my home like no other can.

If you’re questioning how to prioritize what’s on all those spinning plates, let me encourage you to start by asking, “How does this comfort others?” Certainly your family can be comforted through warm meals and a clean home, but I found many of the things I was doing weren’t comforting anyone. This helped me know what tasks to let go of since my desire is to reflect God more brightly.

How about you? How are you equipped to uniquely comfort those around you? Are you willing to let God rewrite your job description to help you better reflect Him to those in your home?

Is Your Girl Drowning in Busyness?

I’m on a quest to inspire young women to live lives of radical faith. I want their faith in Jesus to make a difference in the way they live. I want it to change how they see the world. I want them to be willing to take risks for the Kingdom.

But I’ve encountered a bit of a roadblock.

Our girls are drowning in busyness.

Is it the culture? Nope. (Greater is He that is in them, than he that is in the world, after all). Are they uninterested in radical faith? No. They want to live radical lives for Christ. So, what’s the problem?

It’s their day planners. Young women have so much to do; they don’t even have time to pray or read their Bibles, much less do something radical. Our girls are drowning in busyness. We need to throw them a life raft!

In many ways life for the average middle school and high school girl has started to resemble a pressure cooker. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the problem:

  • Because of the pressure to get into a good college, many girls opt to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Experts say each AP class will likely result in forty-five minutes of homework every single school night. If your girl is in three AP classes—say, AP English, AP Biology, and AP Math—she’s spending almost two and a half hours doing homework after each eight-hour school day.
  • 23% of young women spend two to five hours per day practicing a sport or musical instrument.
  • 21% of young women spend at least ten hours per week working for pay.
  • Most of them are spending two to ten hours per week hanging out with friends.

Let me do the math for you.

We all get 168 hours each week. Between school, sports, and friends, girls are spending eighty hours of that time. Add in some time for sleep, and 133 hours are gone. Now factor in family time, involvement in church, and time for fun, and we’re well past 168 hours.

Ale wrote us about it on the Lies Young Women Believe blog,

“I so desperately need a rest. I’m too busy. My relationship with the Lord is getting weak. I have no time for anything, not even for myself—doing college homework, helping people who need me—I wanna accomplish everything!!!! Most of the time, I’m at church which is a good thing, but being involved in so many things is driving me nuts!”

How can we raise up the next generation of true women if they don’t have time to know God’s Word? How can we pass the baton to a group of girls who are too tired to finish the race?

We can’t hope for our girls to value silence, stillness, and Sabbath if they never see us doing the same.

The specifics of how to create margin will vary from person to person and family to family, but I know one thing for sure. We can’t expect young women to resist the pull of busyness if we don’t do it first. We can’t hope for them to value silence, stillness, and Sabbath if they never see us doing the same.

My mission to raise up a generation of radical young women starts here, with those of us who are a little further down the road. As we model balance, we are teaching an invaluable lesson to those who will run the race next.

So, how about you? Is busyness a roadblock to radical faith in your life? How can you encourage the young women in your world to say no to busyness in order to chase hard after a radical faith?

Note: Portions of this post are taken from my new book, My Name Is Erin: One Girl’s Plan For Radical Faith.

Why Our Kids Don’t Need the “Little g” Gospel

I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

There are all kinds of little “g” gospels. These are messages we preach to ourselves citing the (false) reasons God will surely love and accept us.

  • There’s the gospel of association: “I’m a Christian because I was raised in a Christian home.”
  • There’s the gospel of achievement: “God loves me because I do so much for Him.”
  • There’s the gospel of comparison: “I am holy because I’m not as messed up as she is.”

These are all false gospels. Association, achievement, and comparison will never give us victory over our sin.

There is a little “g” gospel that is particularly dangerous and tempting as we parent. It’s the gospel of goodness. “God will love me if I am a very, very good boy or girl.”

But there is another little “g” gospel that is particularly dangerous and tempting as we parent. It’s the gospel of goodness. “God will love me if I am a very, very good boy or girl.”

We preach this gospel to our children when we give them the impression that church is about sitting quietly through a sermon. We do it when we try to spackle over our own junk whenever we head into church or gather with other Christians. We do it when we reduce the Bible down to a list of don’ts. We do it when we believe the lie that parenthood is about raising well-behaved children rather than radicals for Christ.

When Paul wrote this first letter to the church in Corinth, he wanted to get one thing straight—there was only one gospel he cared to preach. It was the only gospel with any power after all. It’s Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way you and your kids can:

  • have power over sin.
  • be reconciled to God.
  • live holy lives in a corrupt and godless generation.
  • be salt and light to your lost neighbors and friends.

The good boy/good girl gospel will never get you or your kids there. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified ever can.

The good boy/good girl gospel will never get you or your kids there. Only Jesus Christ and Him crucified ever can.

I realize there are levels and ranges of spiritual maturity with our kids and grandkids. I’m not advocating you show your two-year-old The Passion of the Christ or try to explain propitiation to your preschooler. But I think Paul’s creed is a good one: I am here to preach Christ and Him crucified. No little “g” gospel will work instead. The message my children need to hear me preaching most often is that Jesus paid the price for their sin. His love and acceptance of them is not rooted in their ability to be good.

As we seek to influence children who know Christ and ultimately devote our lives to Him, let’s seek to preach the gospel of grace, not goodness.

Getting Serious About Gratitude

Yesterday, I wrote about God’s warning against spiritual envy from Jude 12–13. While that passage hit me hard, it felt like a walk in the park compared to what I read next.

Jude 14–15 reads,

“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

At first glance this sounds like a battle between God and the culture to me. Maybe Hollywood, pop music, and tabloid magazines are about to get their due. After all, they must be who Jude is describing as committing so many ungodly deeds, right?

Keep reading.

“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires . . .” (v. 16)

Cue record scratch sound effect.

The sinners God’s judging here are:

  • grumblers
  • malcontents

In other words, they’re complainers. They are being judged because of their lack of gratitude, not because of some sin we would perceive to be more grievous or devastating.

This shouldn’t surprise me, I guess. God commands gratitude often in His Word:

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chron. 16:34)

“Let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 12:28)

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

I’ve got to confess that it’s easy for me to gloss over these verses. I know I should be thankful, but if I’m not it seems like no harm, no foul.

Perhaps that’s why Jude takes such a dramatically different approach to the issue. Instead of simply reminding us to be thankful in warm and fuzzy terms he describes the judgment due to those who do not thank God for all He has done.

True gratitude, the really, really good stuff that fills our hearts to overflowing and delights our giving God isn’t a result of rule following but of a constant reminder of the beauty of the gospel.

Jude may have been referring to the wilderness generation here, or he may have some other group in mind as he describes the coming judgment, but I know he could have just as easily been talking about me.

Gratitude is not something I am good at, despite the fact that God is so deserving. Discontentment is my default. Complaining is sadly common practice for me. The beauty of God’s Word is that it helps us recalibrate when we’ve gotten off track. In this case, the clear image of God judging those who chronically complain and habitually choose discontentment has the power to remind us to do things differently.

Now, before you add the words “show gratitude” to your to-do list for tomorrow, let me give a little disclaimer. For achievement-driven, to-do-list-loving, Christian women like me, gratitude can so easily become something that feels like a rule: We must give thanks because God commands us to.

That’s true. It is a commandment, but true gratitude, the really, really good stuff that fills our hearts to overflowing and delights our giving God isn’t a result of rule following but of a constant reminder of the beauty of the gospel. If we are going to put anything on our to-do lists, it should be to remember all that God has done for us, that we never earned or deserved.

Let’s start right now.

What can you thank God for? Will you choose contentment by focusing on all He has done?

Leave a comment below by Monday, September 30, letting us know what you’re thanking God for. Then we’ll choose one of you at random to win Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.


Putting an End to Spiritual Envy

You know these are good things—kingdom building things—and yet, somewhere deep down you feel something other than excitement, joy, and the need to celebrate. You feel something a lot like envy:

  • A friend of yours is asked to be the speaker at your church’s women’s event. She hits it out of the park, and there’s a huge response.
  • Someone you know gets a deal to write a Bible study with a big-time publisher.
  • A family in your church moves to the foreign mission field and are part of a mighty move of God.
  • Your sister is a gifted prayer warrior. When she prays, things happen. Her prayers seem to have more power than yours.
  • God clearly intervenes in someone’s marriage, or with their child, or with their health while you continue to pray for Him to do the same in your life.

I can relate. Pride often rears its ugly head in my life when God is clearly using and working in the lives of others. I know better, and yet . . . I still feel a little jealous when God’s hand rests on someone else’s shoulders.

Perhaps that’s why Jude 11–13 has hit me like a two-by-four in recent days:

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”

To know who Jude is dropping the hammer on here, we must do our Old Testament homework. I’m sure you’re familiar with Cain. In Genesis 4 Cain explodes with anger because God favors his brother’s offering. His envy results in murder.

When we are upset about the gifts God gives others, we secretly and selfishly want attention or accolades and don’t like it when others get it.

We don’t bring offerings to the altar anymore, so this may look slightly different in our lives. But we follow the way of Cain any time we are angry, jealous, or put off by God’s clear favor in someone else’s life.

What was Balaam’s error? If you’ve never read Balaam’s story you should check out Numbers 22–23. For now, the main thing we need to know about Balaam is that he wanted to use the gifts God gave him for his own gain.

When we are upset about the gifts God gives others aren’t we doing the same thing? We secretly and selfishly want attention or accolades and don’t like it when others get it.

Korah was guilty of this. Korah’s rebellion is outlined in Numbers 16, but here’s the gist:

“They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (v. 3)

Korah and his followers hated hierarchy. They refused to place themselves under spiritual authority because they thought it meant someone was better than them. (By the way, Korah and his cronies were swallowed up by the earth!)

These stories sound dramatic, but they all have one thing in common—spiritual envy. These are simply folks who resented God’s hand in the lives of others.

Jude has strong words for those of us who, like them:

  • are jealous of God’s favor
  • use God’s voice for personal gain
  • want to be in charge
  • resent spiritual authority.

And Jude gives us six clear word pictures for what spiritual envy makes us:

  1. Hidden reefs: a danger that’s hard to detect.
  2. Shepherds feeding themselves: greedy and bad for the herd.
  3. Waterless clouds: useless.
  4. Fruitless trees: in case you missed it . . . useless.
  5. Wild waves of the sea: destructive.
  6. Wandering stars: giving misleading guidance to travelers.

This is the cost of our spiritual envy. It makes us a danger to Christ’s Body and robs us of the fruit God intends to bear in our lives.

I don’t want to follow the way of Cain any longer. I don’t want to repeat Balaam’s error or participate in Korah’s rebellion. Instead, I am reminded that God’s blessing is as much a gift when I’m a bystander as it is when I’m the recipient. What’s good for Christ’s Body is ultimately good for me.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with spiritual envy? How do Jude’s words resonate with you?

Psst . . . for a second lesson I’m learning from these verses, check out tomorrow’s post.

The Time for Action Has Come

Yesterday I wrote about the influx of readers at who are struggling with porn. I urged you to get involved by talking about this difficult issue with the young women in your life.

But I know those won’t be easy conversations to have.

Porn is a serious issue, but it is not an unpardonable sin.

Porn isn’t fun to think about. It certainly isn’t easy to talk about. It’s one of those issues we prefer to imagine impacts somebody else. Or for those who know the dark truth—that porn can sink its teeth into anyone—talking honestly about it can be amongst our worst fears.

If you fall into the category of women who have wrestled with porn, let me take a moment to talk just to you. I wish I could take you out to lunch and tell you that yes, porn is a serious issue. But most importantly, despite what Satan is whispering to you, porn addiction is not an unpardonable sin. Jesus Christ is more than able to deliver you and take away the shame you may be feeling. You don’t have to hide, in fact you could join me in leading a charge to set others free.

Because this issue has become too big for us to remain silent.

You may have read about Britain’s sweeping reform this past summer. Saying that the “darkest corners of the Internet” pose a threat to children, British Prime Minister David Cameron rolled out a radical and controversial plan to stop porn’s influence on his country’s youngest citizens.

The plan essentially blocks porn on most computers, smart phones, and tablets. Filters for adult content will become the default setting, and to access porn, citizens will have to prove they are eighteen or older. Cameron also demanded that Google and other search engine companies do more to hide porn from kids.

Cameron announced, “I am not making this speech because I want to (moralize) or scare-monger, but because I feel profoundly as a politician, and as a father, that the time for action has come. This is, quite simply, about how to protect children and their innocence.”

Has the time for action on the issue of porn come? Let’s look at what’s at stake:

  • One study found that 93.2% of boy participants and 61.1% of girls had been exposed to porn.
  • The number of fifteen to seventeen year olds who have had multiple exposures to hardcore porn is somewhere around 80%. 
  • The average age of first Internet exposure to porn is eleven years old.

Fact: Our kids are seeing porn. We know we don’t want this, but we should really know why. Here’s a great article from Focus on the Family that outlines the harmful effects of porn better than I could, but let me hit the highlights.

Porn is a big deal because it:

  • Wreaks havoc on marriages.
  • Creates unrealistic expectations.
  • Is addictive and progressive.
  • Causes emotional trauma to children who are exposed.
  • Leads to earlier sexual activity.
  • Devalues monogamy, marriage, and child rearing.

This list is not intended to batter those of you who have struggled with porn. You likely already know that porn can make a mess of things. But I think it’s critical for us to see in black and white what porn can do.

If that list isn’t devastating enough, there is plenty of evidence that easy access to porn has led to an increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and sometimes violent sexual behavior. Did you know that the FBI’s statistics show that pornography is found at 80% of the scenes of violent sex crimes or in the homes of the perpetrators? 

Porn matters because it launches an attack against so much of what God has created and treasures. But we’re not the prime ministers of a major world power. We can’t drag Google into the boardroom or force the citizens of our nation to change the settings on their personal computer.

So what can we do? I’d like to propose a three-pronged counter attack.

1. Pray

Prayer moves mountains. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says,

“If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.'”

When we see the numbers and realize how big the problem is, doing something about our culture’s porn problem can feel like climbing Mt. Everest. But nothing is impossible with God. I believe the avalanche of comments we’re seeing on are indicative of a fresh attack by the Enemy. He is seeking to take young women out with the aftershocks of porn addiction, and he is succeeding. When the spiritual battle heats up, it’s time to draw our swords. One of our greatest offensive weapons is prayer.

I’m setting aside the entire month of September to pray about this issue. Would you join me?

2. Go on the offensive

The availability of the Internet is the number one contributing factor to the rabid spread of porn. So, let’s take our fight to where the battle is already being waged. Will you use your Facebook, blogs, and Twitter feeds to spread the word about this issue?

Here are links to some great articles to get the conversation started:

3. Talk to the Next Generation

I know I already asked you to speak to the young women in your world in yesterday’s post, but we mommas know how to make sure things get done. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Please, make it a point to talk to the young women in your world about the dangers of porn. The chances are sky high that she will be exposed to it early and repeatedly. Just one exposure can take her down a terrible path in the absence of someone to lovingly speak God’s Truth and stand up against the pervasive lies of culture about sex. If porn usage and addiction is going to decline (instead of continuing to rise) we must help future victims armor up.

Who can you start that conversation with?

That Girl’s Secret Porn Addiction

Catch Josh McDowell and Nancy today and tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as they discuss how (and when) to talk to your children about sex as well as how to help them deal with temptation.

Did you know has a little sister blog at It’s a site much like this one targeted at young women (mostly high school and college aged) with the goal of identifying lies and replacing them with God’s Truth.

Young women have a secret. They’re addicted to porn.

I have the privilege of running that blog, and the 30,000+ young women who visit there every month are a passion of mine. I often say that if I could, I’d put their pictures on my refrigerator (that would be a big fridge!). These are great girls who love the Lord and want to know how He calls them to live.

But they’ve got a secret. They’re addicted to porn.

They write to us about their sin, their secrets, and their shame. Here are their actual words:

“I am someone who struggles with porn, and I’m a female. How can I beat this struggle? There doesn’t seem to be help for females struggling with porn. What should I do? I don’t want to tell anyone because it’s embarrassing, and people would judge me.”

“I am also a female who struggles with the temptations of porn . . . I try to stay away from the temptations, but I always seem to go back to it. I feel guilty, and I want to be free from this sin. I feel sick about it.”

“I became a Christian recently, but before that I struggled with porn and masturbating. I still struggle . . . I have repented of it many times, told God I’m sorry and that I will do better, but I just can’t stop! I’m at my wits end, and I can’t tell my mom. Please give me some advice and pray for me!!!!!!!!”

Comments like these used to trickle in at a rate of one or two per month, but lately they’ve come in an avalanche. Every single day we hear from a young woman who is addicted to porn—and often porn’s lustful sidekick, masturbation.

Why am I telling you this?

Because these girls are your daughters, your nieces, and your neighbors. They are sitting beside you week after week in church, terrified that someone will find them out. They wear shame like a blanket. It covers them and tells them they must stay hidden, no one can know, no one will understand.

And because they do not tell, they are not free. James 5:16 gives us the anti-venom to the kind of sin that makes us sick:

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. They prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

While it’s true that only God can forgive our sins, it’s also true that there’s tremendous power in confessing our sin to each other. Those of us with a few more years under our belt may already know this secret, but young women don’t seem to. They’re so afraid to disappoint us that they refuse to tell. The pull of porn is so strong that they cannot find victory on their own, and so they stay trapped in the cage of sin and shame.

Ask God to use you to help free those young women who are held captive by porn in your world.

I love those girls too much to leave them there. I’m determined to pry them out of the cage that porn creates, but I can’t do it on my own. I need your help. I need you to talk to your daughters and neighbors and nieces about porn. No doubt, it’s likely to be an awkward conversation, but the stakes are too high to keep avoiding it. And I need you to keep talking. Our culture offers plenty of “teachable moments” to talk about porn. Seize them!

Would you be willing to ask God to use you to help free those young women who are held captive by porn in your world? It’s not a mission for the faint of heart, but one I’m afraid we can’t avoid much longer.

Let’s be True Women by taking a stand against the Enemy in this area and fighting for those younger than us who have fallen into porn’s painful pit.

A Fleshy Assessment: Ten Questions to Ask Yourself

After reading Erin’s post, catch Yvonne Welch’s story, “Healing From Bitterness,” today through Wednesday on Revive Our Hearts.

As I write these words, I am nine months pregnant. Those of you who have been there know that is a very “fleshy” season of life. That’s true in a very literal sense (I’m talking to you, extra large maternity pants!), but I’ve also found it to be true in a spiritual sense.

When our flesh creeps into the driver’s seat, we need to ask God to intervene so His Spirit can rule.

All the focus on the physical that is a natural part of pregnancy (“I’m so tired,” “My feet are so swollen,” “I need two scoops of ice cream STAT!”) has unfortunately translated into a season where I am extra fleshy in my walk with the Lord. In this season, I’ve learned to pray this simple prayer daily: “Lord, let your Spirit rule over my flesh today.”

You don’t have to be pregnant to experience this fleshiness. In fact, catering to our flesh is something the Bible warns us against often. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus was frank about the internal tug of war between our flesh and our spirits:

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Paul wrote about doing battle with his flesh in Romans 7, proving that even the superheroes of the faith get fleshy if they didn’t watch it. In Romans 8:5 Paul wrote that there are really only two options for each of us: we can live according to the flesh, or we can live according to the Sprit. We can’t do both at the same time.

Romans 8:8 gives us the most dire warning concerning our flesh:

“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”


I want to please God, don’t you? And since indulging my flesh makes it impossible to please God, I need to be on guard for those times when I am letting my flesh rule me and seek to be more Spirit-led.

With that in mind, I’ve learned to be on the lookout for signs that my flesh is ruling the roost. I’ve turned those signs into a little “feeling fleshy” assessment below. Let me encourage you to take the test yourself, and ask God to reveal pockets of fleshiness in your own life.

Feeling Fleshy?

  1. Do you find it nearly impossible to control your appetite for things like food, affirmation, or stuff, or do you find that with the Lord’s help, you are able to have regular victories over the things you most crave?
  2. Do you have to regularly force yourself to pray and read the Bible, or do you genuinely enjoy nurturing your Spirit in this way?
  3. Do you have a near constant desire to be entertained through things like your iPhone or TV, or are you okay with moments of quiet and reflection?
  4. Is serving others a chore or a delight to you?
  5. Do you find that you often “replay the tapes” of conflicts and disappointments with others, or are you able to readily forgive and let things go?
  6. Does going to church feel like an obligation or

    an opportunity for filling and fellowship?

  7. Are your emotions ruling you (including anger, sadness, or frustration), or are you able to choose contentment?
  8. Do you feel dependent on others to be “okay,” or do you have a general feeling of security and peace?
  9. When it comes to sin, do you more often experience defeat or victory?
  10. Would a hard look at your schedule reveal you are most concerned with Kingdom priorities or earthly priorities?

The first statement in each question should send off alarm bells that your flesh rules in that area. The second statement is an indication that the Spirit has greater control. Obviously, these things aren’t black and white. That’s why Jesus spoke about the tug of war between the flesh and the Spirit.

We will go back and forth between the two, sometimes daily and sometimes hourly. Only Jesus was able to master living by the Spirit at all times, so we need to heed His advice to “watch and pray.” When our flesh creeps into the driver’s seat, we need to ask God to intervene so His Spirit can rule.

In what areas of your life do you recognize the tug of war between the flesh and the Spirit? What can you do the next time you’re feeling fleshy?

Lessons from “The Devastation”

Fact: You are either heading out of the wilderness, or you are heading into it.

My pastor, Tim Cook, recently preached a killer sermon about Jesus’ time in the wilderness. I was struck by his description of the wilderness where Jesus was led and tempted. Tim told us the wilderness described in Matthew 4 was the area that surrounded the Dead Sea. It was thirty-five miles long and fifteen miles wide with almost no drinkable water. Because of this, birds were known to drop out of the sky dead mid-flight if they attempted to cross the wilderness. The ancient Jews called this spot “The Devastation.”

This nickname alone provides tremendous context for the forty days and forty nights Jesus spent in the wilderness. This wasn’t a serene camping trip. It wasn’t a personal retreat. Jesus’ time in “The Devastation” was a time of anguishing trials. When we see this story correctly, we are more able to apply the example of Jesus to our own lives the next time we find ourselves in the wilderness of devastation.

Rapid fire, here are five big lessons Matthew 4 teaches us about The Devastation:

1. The Wilderness Often Comes After A Victory.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

These are the words God the Father spoke just before Jesus was led into the wilderness. Jesus was baptized and the heavens literally opened up. The Spirit of God came down like a dove, and God’s voice boomed approval from heaven. Talk about a spiritual high! But in a heartbeat, Jesus was led into the wilderness where He faced forty days of intense trial.

We like to think of our spiritual lives as a steady climb up a predictable hill. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually we will summit, having “arrived” at the apex of what it means to follow Christ.

But the reality is there will be very high highs, often followed by very low lows. God is God, and we are called to be faithful at both elevations.

2. Sometimes, God Chooses the Wilderness for Us.

Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

God didn’t simply allow the wilderness. He chose it. It was according to His plan and by His leading that Jesus entered The Devastation.

We don’t like to think that God would ever choose suffering for us, but it is so important to know that God is sovereign, even in The Devastation. He isn’t surprised when we end up there. He didn’t fall down on the job, resulting in our suffering. Sometimes He simply allows suffering, and sometimes, as was the case in the life of His Son, He chooses it because it is for our good.

3. The Tempter Thrives in the Wilderness.

Jesus hadn’t been in The Devastation long before the Enemy seized the opportunity to strike. Matthew 4:3 records,

“The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’”

When we face periods of tremendous loss or disappointment, we are especially vulnerable to the lies of the Devil. He would like nothing better than to convince us that God is not really good, or that He doesn’t really love us, that His promises are not really true, or that He’s not there at all when we face seasons of pain. If you are in the wilderness now, learn to recognize the lies of the Tempter.

4. You Need God’s Word To Survive the Wilderness.

Every time Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he quoted Scripture. Like a broken record, when Satan came at Him with a lie, Jesus responded with, “It is written.”

The Bible tells us that God’s Word is the antidote to our sin (Ps. 119:11). When the armor of God is described in Eph. 6:10–18, the Word of God is listed as our sword. In other words, it is our only offensive weapon.

God’s Word can shore you up, get you through, and help you win big battles. The kicker is you must study God’s Word when you’re not in the wilderness in order to have the right weapons in your arsenal when The Devastation comes.

5. The Path Through the Wilderness Leads to the Kingdom.

Immediately after Jesus’ time in the wilderness, my Bible adds this little notation: “Jesus Begins His Ministry.” Jesus walked out of The Devastation and straight into life-transforming, kingdom-building, culture-shaking ministry. God has a habit of taking our seasons of loss and turning them into big gains for the Kingdom.

If you are in The Devastation right now, grab on to God’s promise that He will redeem it (Rom. 8:28), hold on with both hands, and look forward to what God will build on your time in The Devastation.

Would you describe this season of life as The Devastation? Do you sometimes feel like you may not make it across without dropping dead? Consider the lessons Jesus teaches from the wilderness and take hope.

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 …

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.

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.

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!).

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?

A Call to Live Like People Matter

As I read the Gospels, one fact is undeniable to me—Jesus valued people. Over and over He allowed Himself to be stopped, inconvenienced, and used by the people around Him.

There was the time He retreated to a mountain hideout for some much needed rest only to be chased down by a crowd of needy seekers. What did Jesus do? He healed them. Then there was the time He was literally on his way to heal a sick girl when another woman grabbed His robe and got His attention. He stopped and tended to her need. There was the time He went way out of His way to heal a demon-possessed man that others saw as a lost cause. Oh, and there were the children Jesus urged to come to Him even though they seemed to pull Him away from His many ministry responsibilities . . .

To be honest, the fact that Jesus always seemed to make time for others doesn’t always sit well with me. That’s because valuing people isn’t one of my strong suits. I tend to elevate tasks and schedules and crossing items off of my to-do lists. These things fit nicely into the boxes I draw for how I want my life to look. In contrast, valuing people requires much of my time and energy. It’s often messy. It rarely sticks to a schedule.

Valuing people means adopting an overt willingness to be inconvenienced. It means doing things that cannot be measured. It means developing relationships based on who people really are and not who we want them to be.

My son, Eli, had a meltdown recently because we had other families over to our house, and they messed up his room. Just that morning he had spent hours making his room neat and tidy. I was trying to explain the value of sharing, friendship, and hospitality (this writer momma can be a little wordy!) when my husband simply said, “Son, people are more important than our stuff.”


That’s what valuing people looks like. It means accepting a dirty house because people have been loved, cared for, and entertained within the walls of your home. It means accepting a schedule in flux because you are determined to make time for others whenever necessary. It means considering the tasks on your to-do list less important than the people you’re doing them for. It means measuring success through relationships—not how neat and tidy your life looks.

I’ve got much to learn in this area, but I recognize that at the end of my life I want people to say I lived like Jesus—that means I must value people. As I’ve urged the Lord to grow me in this area, I’ve asked myself these questions. Ask them of yourself and consider this: Do I value people?

  1. When someone calls me unexpectedly, do I accept their call or call them back ASAP or ignore them because I’m in the middle of something “more important?”
  2. At the end of the day, do I measure my value by a) what I was able to accomplish, or b) who I was able to love well?
  3. For you mommas . . . when your children ask you to play with them, do you usually do it, or do you usually dismiss them because you have laundry to do, dishes to wash, and dinner to cook?
  4. Do I have time set aside when I “do ministry” (such as teach Sunday school or lead a Bible study), or am I willing to minister to others whenever the opportunity arises?
  5. Do I make a habit of going out of my way for others?

We are unlikely to value others as freely and often as Jesus did, but we should pay close attention to the fact that He lived like people were important to Him (because they are!). To be more like Him, we must do the hard work to follow His example.

Do you live like people matter? What’s one thing you can do today to be more like Christ in this area?

Snapshots of Persecution Happening Right Now

Yesterday, Paula wrapped up her series from the Beatitudes by focusing in on persecution. If you missed that post, be sure to check it out here.

prisoner's hands clasped in prayerI loved the post, but can I be honest? Persecution is a reality that gives me the willies. I don’t like to think about the persecution the disciples faced after Jesus’ death (like the fact that they were stoned, imprisoned, and eventually killed!). I squirm when I consider Jesus’ words that persecution is a blessing, because to be honest it’s hard for me to see it that way. Safety feels like a blessing. Freedom of religion feels like a blessing. But persecution? That seems much more like a curse.

And so sometimes I try to convince myself that persecution is a thing of the past. Maybe Jesus was simply talking to the members of the early church when He uttered "blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you." It’s a warm and fuzzy theory, but the reality is that Christians are being persecuted right now. I’ve gathered a few of their stories. Let me encourage you to read them, pray for them, and ask God to give you wisdom to see how God is working in the midst of the persecution they face.

The Deadliest Place To Be a Christian

I was struck by this article when it came across my Twitter feed several weeks ago. It details the horrible conditions faced by Christians in Nigeria. Nigeria is a small country located on the west coast of Africa. Christians there face extreme danger, and many have been killed.

Here are some fast facts:

  • Last year, Nigerians alone accounted for almost 70 percent of Christians killed globally, making Nigeria the deadliest place to be a Christian.
  • In 2012 more than 900 Nigerian Christians were killed because of their faith. 
  • The destruction and burning of churches, Christian homes, and businesses is common practice in Nigeria. 
  • Christian neighborhoods are denied basic services such as roads and sewers.

An American Pastor Imprisoned In Iran

Pastor Saeed Abedini is an American citizen. His wife and two small children live in Idaho, and yet, right this moment, Saeed is sitting in a prison around the globe in Tehran, Iran.

Officially Saeed’s crime was "threatening national security" by leading house churches in Iran several years ago. He has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in pastoring home churches. He has been tortured during his imprisonment.

Despite all that he faces, reports indicate that Saeed is experiencing the blessing that Jesus promised concerning persecution.

"Despite his suffering, Pastor Saeed’s faith continues to keep him alive," his attorneys say. "Other prisoners reportedly told Saeed’s family that when Pastor Saeed was released from solitary confinement, ‘he was glowing,’ and that miraculously he ‘was filled with more joy and peace after solitary’ than he was before solitary."

You can write Pastor Saeed a letter or sign the petition for his release here.

Texas Cheerleaders Fight To Show Their Faith

Much closer to home a squad of Texas cheerleaders had to fight hard this year in order to showcase their faith. Cheerleaders at Kountze High School in Kountze, TX, were forbidden from putting religious slogans such as "If God is for us, who can be against us" on banners for games. They fought the ruling, went to court, and were eventually granted the right to place slogans and Bible verses on the banners again.

While it’s true these girls didn’t face angry mobs intent on burning down their churches, murdering them for their faith, or throwing them in prison, they did face opposition because of their faith. They were told to be silent about their beliefs in God and ordered to keep the Bible out of their everyday activities in their public high school. They are a great example of the fact that Christians should expect persecution, even if they live in an all-American town in Texas. Standing up for their faith against school officials and in the midst of what eventually became a full-blown lawsuit likely wasn’t easy, but they did it. Would you have the guts to do the same?

These are just snapshots of a reality in all four corners of the globe. Jesus meant what He said when He predicted "and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake" (Matt. 10:22), and we have the choice to see persecution as the blessing Jesus does or to avoid it at all costs.

With that in mind, here are a few questions to consider:

  • What can you do to be a blessing to those who are being persecuted for their faith right now?
  • Have you faced persecution in your own life? How did you respond?
  • Do you see persecution as a blessing?

Loose Lips Sink Families

“Loose lips sink ships.” They also have a way of sinking entire families. Don’t believe me? Just ask Zeresh or Potiphar’s wife or the many wives of Solomon.

These were wives who did not hold their tongues. They are wives who whispered unwise words into the ears of their husbands. As a result, they are wives who watched their husbands lose fortunes, favor, and even their lives. Here are their stories . . .

Solomon’s Wives
Solomon started out as a man zealous for the Lord. As a result, God blessed his socks off (1 Kings 4:29–34), but Solomon eventually turned to false gods. What led him astray? Was it his wealth? His power? His celebrity status? Nope. It was his wives. 1 Kings 11:3–4 records,

“He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after others gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God.”

Solomon’s wives encouraged him to turn away from God. Solomon listened. As a result God tore his kingdom from him (1 Kings 11:31).

Potiphar’s Wife
Potiphar’s wife was a pot stirrer. She liked to cause drama, and she liked to draw her husband into the fray. In Genesis 39 she famously tried to entice Joseph to sleep with her. When he refused she lied to her husband, stirred things up, and pushed her husband’s hot buttons. We all know Joseph was imprisoned as a result, but Potiphar may have endured a worse blow. In Genesis 39:5 we read that it was because of Joseph’s presence that Potiphar’s home was so blessed. We can assume that when Joseph was gone, so was God’s favor. Potiphar’s wife blocked God’s blessings with her scheming.

Haman’s Wife, Zeresh
Zeresh’s story is truly a cautionary tale. Her husband was Haman, the chief official of King Ahasuerus. The more famous wife in this story is Esther, the king’s wife who saved her people from annihilation. Sadly, Zeresh did not play such an honorable or admirable role. Esther 5:14 records,

“Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.’”

Zeresh was encouraging her man to make a power grab (after all he deserved it!). As he confessed his frustration with Mordecai, she fed the flames and urged him to do something about it. She stroked his ego and said what he wanted to hear. Haman liked her idea and ran with it, but Zeresh had dished out bad advice. Haman was hung on the very gallows his wife encouraged him to build (Esther 7:10).

These are not happy marriage tales. There are no happily ever afters here, but there is a theme we should pay attention to. In each story, a husband made a disastrous decision (or a series of disastrous decisions). His choices were his own, and he faced the consequences God dealt him. But in each case, there was a wife in the wings encouraging her man to do wrong. The woman (or women) behind each great man failed to speak wise words and then had to watch as their husbands fell hard.

Then There’s You . . .
Lean in, listen close ladies. Your husband listens to what you say. So do your sons and the other men in your circle of influence. I realize this may not always feel like it’s true. I know there are times you feel you repeat yourself constantly or that the men in your life just tune you out, but it’s more likely that your words are having a huge impact. Eventually, those words are likely to translate into actions. With that truth in mind, it is important for us to evaluate what we say and make sure it is wise, helpful, encouraging, and a right reflection of who God wants our men to be.

This is not an easy thing to do. It requires us to weigh our words and make sure they are worth saying. Sometimes it requires us to keep our mouth shut. It also requires us to avoid the landmines stepped on by the women I mentioned above. We must:

  • Avoid tugging his heart toward something other than the Lord.
  • Resist the urge to stir the pot.
  • Ditch the desire to stroke his ego or push his buttons for a reaction.
  • Stay calm when he is riled up or angry with others.
  • Steer clear of the temptation to encourage him to grab power or position outside of the Lord’s timing.

For both men and women, our words have tremendous power. They can motivate others to live more like Christ or be exactly the push they need to make choices that are less than God-honoring. With that sobering reality in mind, consider how you talk to the men in your world and ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I think about what I say before I say it?
  • Do my words encourage and equip toward righteousness?
  • Am I a wife and a mother who encourages wise or foolish action?

Should I Submit To My Boyfriend?

girl making a heart finger frame"Should I submit to my boyfriend?"

That’s the question that one of the smart readers of this blog submitted recently. To be honest, it’s a bit of a stumper. Since a boyfriend is not the same as a husband, isn’t submission in that relationship a bit misplaced? Part of me thinks yes! But since I see dating as preparation for marriage (as opposed to just having fun), is it reasonable to think a girl could disregard what the Bible teaches about submission while dating then suddenly flip a switch after saying "I do"? Hmmm … that’s a little trickier.

Those same questions may be swirling in your mind as you consider how to act in your own dating relationship (now or in the future). If so, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Your boyfriend is not your husband.

You may really, really like your boyfriend. He may have everything you are looking for in a future husband. The two of you may have even talked about getting married. But none of that is the same as actually being married.

The reality is that break-ups happen. They happen to couples who love each other very much. They happen to couples who were sure they would be together forever. Break-ups can even happen after a couple becomes engaged. (Here are two stories where that’s exactly what happened: "Lessons Learned From a Cancelled Wedding" and "Hope for Broken Hearts."

As you consider your relationship with your boyfriend, it is critical to keep in mind that he is not your husband. There is no place in Scripture that places a boyfriend as an authority over a girlfriend—likely because there is no guarantee that this is a permanent relationship.

This doesn’t mean that you can disregard everything your boyfriend says or treat him with disrespect. Ephesians 5:21 urges all Christians to submit to each other because of our loyalty to Christ. (By the way, if your boyfriend is not a Christian, please take time to read this post. It is always a good idea to treat others with love, respect, and consideration. However, don’t fall for the temptation to "play house" with your boyfriend and pretend that you are already husband and wife. The guidelines the Bible offers for married couples are just that—for married couples.

God has given you arenas to learn submission.

How’s a girl supposed to learn submission if she doesn’t submit to her boyfriend? God’s Word has that answer covered.

Ephesians 6:2 says, "‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise)."

Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Another way to think of submission is to respect, defer to, or honor. Marriage is not the only relationship where we are called to submit. You are clearly called to honor and submit to your parents. In fact, this is really the classroom where God intends for you to learn biblical submission. He also calls you to honor and obey your spiritual authorities. This could include your pastor, youth pastor, or mentor.

Do you find it difficult to submit to your parents? Do you tend to disregard it when your youth pastor calls out your sin or challenges you to live more Christ-like? Don’t be fooled into thinking that submission will be easier when you’re married. It will not. Make a habit of respecting others and deferring to those whom God has placed in authority over you now instead of assuming it will come more naturally later.

Remember what submission is all about.

The Bible clearly calls wives to submit to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22–24:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

This passage gives us a hint about why submission really matters. Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the church. Paul really hammers this point home a few verses later.

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32).

Submission isn’t about power trips. It’s about putting the mystery of the gospel on display. When you submit to your husband someday in marriage, you’ll be showing the world what it means for the Church to willingly surrender to the Lordship of Christ. That’s big stuff!

But you don’t have to be married to determine to let your relationships put Jesus on display. Look for ways to honor and glorify God in all of your relationships, including your dating relationships. Speak with kindness. Forgive freely. Run away from sexual sin. These are ways you can showcase Christ without treating your boyfriend like a husband.

"Should I submit to my boyfriend" is a good question. Perhaps an even better question is, "How can I use my relationship with my boyfriend to most honor God?" I’ll let you answer that one. Leave us a comment, and tell us what you think.

A Soldier's Wife Redefines Marriage

Widow of WWII Soldier Waits Over 60 Years For the Love of Her Life – Tear Jerker! from joylights on GodTube.

The video above is a real tearjerker. The first time I watched it, I thought it was simply a Hallmark-card-like take of a soldier’s wife who understood sacrifice, patriotism, and loss. I suppose it is a story about those things, but one thing that the soldier’s wife said landed like a dart in my heart …

"Billy was married to me all of his life, and I chose to be married to him all of my life."


The truth is, the woman in this story had only been married six weeks when her new husband shipped off to war. She never saw him again. Before they even celebrated their first anniversary, he was gone and she was left as a wife without a husband to hold, to be loved by, to build a life with.

It doesn’t sound like a very happy ending, but the soldier’s wife seems to have learned a lesson about marriage that we all need to know.

The goal of marriage isn’t to make us happy.

Sure, it’s possible to be happily married, but feeling happy isn’t the barometer we should use to decide if marriage is good. Did the soldier’s wife have a "happy" marriage? I would guess not, since the majority of her marriage was spent alone. But she was faithful. Perhaps she knows the truth that the Bible spells out in Ephesians 5:31–32.

"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

She faithfully loved one man her whole life even though he could not offer the same love in return. Does that portray Christ’s love for us, His Church? You betcha! She chose to keep her promise even when her husband failed to be able to keep his. Sound like a little like what Jesus did for us? Yes. It does.

In Lies Young Women Believe, Nancy and Dannah wrote about the mystery this way:

God did not design marriage to make you happy, but to glorify Himself. If you approach marriage in God’s timing and with a pure heart, it will likely prove to be one of the most wonderful experiences and gifts of your life. However, God’s ultimate purpose in marriage is not to make you happy. It is to glorify Himself.

When you look to a relationship with a guy to make you happy, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and potentially for disaster.

So … grab a box of Kleenexes, and watch that video one more time. This time ask yourself these questions:

  • If you were the soldier’s wife, would you have waited faithfully for a lifetime?
  • How do you think this story would be different if the wife looked to marriage to make her happy?
  • When you think about your future marriage, are you more concerned with how it will make you happy or how it will make you holy?

I'm Sending You On A Scavenger Hunt

I’ve always loved scavenger hunts. That’s why I’m sending you on one.
woman with magnifying glass

Your assignment? Find the best quotes from the book Lies Young Women Believe or from posts on this site. We will turn your favorite quotes into shareable images for use on this blog and on additional sites like Pinterest and Facebook. Our hope is to create a ripple effect where God’s truth is shared through outlets we haven’t tapped before.

So … here’s what you do.

  1. Find your favorite quotes from this book or blog. We recommend you do some digging in our archives. There’s gold in them thar hills!
  2. Leave us a comment with the quote(s) below. We will pass them on to our graphic artists who will turn them into images that we can share. (You can share them too!)
  3. Be sure to tell us who said the quote (Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Dannah Gresh, Erin Davis, etc) and where it’s from (either the book or the blog). 
  4. Keep in mind that shorter is better. Three sentences max.

I hope you find more than just great quotes. I hope you uncover a gob of God’s truth!

Go ahead, and start digging!

The Ministry of Pancakes

I had a toddler at home and a baby in my belly. Most days I was crippled by pregnancy symptoms that made it difficult to put one foot in front of the other.

Can you think of a time when your circumstances were tough? Freeze-frame that memory in your mind for a moment. We’ll come back to it.

I had told some friends at church that I was struggling. Many of them looked at me sweetly and offered a genuine, although not very helpful hug or shoulder squeeze. While it is true that none of them could do anything about my exhaustion, nausea, or fear, I was desperate for someone to do something, anything, to help me.

And then a sweet lady in my church did. She called me late one evening and extended a strange invitation, “When you and Eli get up in the morning, come over in your jammies. I will make you pancakes.”

I could have said no. I could have been too embarrassed to show up sporting my morning look of messy hair and mismatched pajamas. I could have kept my mask of perfection firmly glued on my make-up free face. But the pull of a breakfast I didn’t have to cook on dishes I didn’t have to wash was too much for me. The result was a steaming pile of pancakes loaded with butter and maple syrup, and a morning of ministry to my heart that filled me back up when I was empty.

That was the day I learned about the ministry of pancakes. I’m not talking in code here, not offering some deep theological truth. I’m simply saying we can be a balm to the hurting, the lonely, the sick, and the desperate through the simple gift of

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a hot breakfast. It’s an idea we can trace straight back to Jesus.

In John 21, we find the disciples fishing. Jesus had appeared to the disciples once after His resurrection and then presumably disappeared. Likely more as a coping method than a fish-finding mission, the disciples returned to what they knew: the lake, the boat, the fishing nets worn through with familiarity.

And then in John 21:9, we read that the disciples returned to shore one morning to find the Savior with a fire already burning, fish cooking, and bread ready to eat. “Come have breakfast,” he said (v. 12).

Now, I’ll take a steaming stack of pancakes over a fish breakfast any day, but the fact remains that Jesus tenderly reached out to His hurting and confused disciples through a simple, hot breakfast. Over that breakfast He confirmed His love, clarified their calling, and gave them a chance to clear the air.

In the midst of that He had an interesting conversation with Peter:

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Lord, you can see my heart. You know everything. You know that I love you.”

“Feed my sheep.”

That conversation was layered and private. I wouldn’t begin to try to figure out everything that was said (and unsaid) between Peter and Jesus. But I’ve always thought “Feed my sheep” could be translated this way—prove that you love me by taking care of my flock.

The super spiritual version of that means we are to feed others truth. Peter went on to pastor the Church. He did a lot of lamb feeding that had nothing to do with food. But what if we can boil Jesus’ words down to their simplest possible definition? What if we can love Jesus well by feeding others?

Think back to that hard time I asked you to freeze-frame in your mind. What would a stack of pancakes cooked by a caring friend have meant to you in that season? What would a hot breakfast prepared by loving hands have done for your soul? With that in mind, how could the ministry of pancakes bless someone in your world? How could you be like Jesus this week by simply offering to make someone breakfast?

I suppose those questions could stay rhetorical, but I’d rather they didn’t. I would rather you make a commitment to minister to someone in need through the practical step of cooking them breakfast.

I can’t make that phone call for you or run to your local grocery store to pick up the necessary supplies, but I can take out some guesswork.

Let me know how it goes!

My Very Favorite Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

3 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
½ cup milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter

In a large bowl mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients. Blend and drop onto a hot griddle.

Have Mercy!

Catch Encouraging Your Husband to Leadtoday on Revive Our Hearts for a very practical discussion about the ways wives can encourage strength and leadership in their husbands.

Inspired by a great series written by True Woman’s own Paula Hendricks on the beatitudes for the Lies Young Women Believe blog, I’ve been studying Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5 for several weeks. (What can I say; I’m a bit of a slow learner!) Last week, my studies took me to Matthew 5:7,

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

It is perhaps one of the simplest formulas in all of Scripture. If we show mercy, we get mercy. Easy as that. Mercy means to show compassion to; to bear with; to be lenient toward. I certainly want God to show compassion toward me and to be lenient toward my sin (even though I deserve punishment). Jesus makes it clear that if I want mercy, I better make a habit of dishing it out.

We all like to think of ourselves as merciful, but I had a hunch Jesus didn’t include this statement to make a rhetorical point. Maybe I needed the reminder to practice showing mercy.

With that thought in mind, I decided to ask the Lord who I was not being merciful to. The answer came into my heart in a single beat.

“Your husband.”

Come again, Lord?

“You are not merciful to your husband.”

As I mulled it over, I realized God was right (of course). I am so quick to point out my husband’s shortcomings, so eager to talk to Jason about what he has done wrong. It is so rare for me to offer him slack or to be forbearing toward those habits which I find annoying or frustrating.

Here’s a simple example. In our house, taking out the trash is Jason’s job. He has a little habit of waiting until not another sliver of paper can fit into the can. I could ignore his choice to let the trash overflow. I could take the trash out myself. I could kindly say something like, “Honey, could you please take the trash out?”

But I rarely do. I huff and puff and mention that the trash is overflowing again and that I had to remind him again.

My expressed annoyance may get the trash removed, but it doesn’t demonstrate mercy. Instead, I show my tendency to want to pounce on everything I think my man is doing wrong.

Any wives out there thinking of their own overflowing trash cans right about now? Or the fact that you point it out every single time he comes home a little late for dinner?

Maybe it’s your children you aren’t merciful toward. Do you take every opportunity to point out what they’ve done wrong? Are you quick to remind them of messy rooms or backpacks off the hook, or do you default to loving leniency?

How about your co-workers? Do they have the freedom to mess up, or do you look for reasons to pin them to the wall?

Jesus’ words are a simple formula for all our relationships and interactions. If we want to receive mercy (and we do!) for the many times we miss the mark, fall short, or screw up, we must make a practice of showing mercy to those around us. Even when they make the same mistakes over and over again.

So, let me encourage you to pray the same prayer I prayed after reading Matthew 5:7.

“Jesus, who am I not showing mercy to?”

Listen. And ask Him to give you the strength to extend mercy more often.  

Is It Time to Re-Think Your Family’s Sports Schedule?

From baseball season to fantasy football leagues, sports are tightly woven into the fabric of our culture. Since this is a blog for women, I may not be writing to many die-hard sports fans or professional players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sports aren’t playing a major role in your life and the rhythm of your family.

A Huffington post article, The Final Four, Travel Teams and Empty Pews, recently asked the question, “Who is winning the competition between sports and religion?” Until I read it, I wasn’t consciously aware that sports and faith had stepped into the same ring, but the numbers I read concerned me:

  • In a study of sixteen declining congregations in the U.S. and Canada, the number one reason cited by clergy and church members for failing attendance was the “secularization of Sunday.” Many church members cited their kids’ sports as being the most critical factor.
  • More than 1/3 of congregants in a separate study said school and sports-related activities was “quite a bit of an issue” when considering their church attendance.
  • About 2/3 of “Easter Christians” polled said they attend church only twice a year because they are too busy with other commitments including kids’ sports programs.  

Shouldn’t someone throw the flag here? Isn’t it time we notice that sports are pulling Christians out of the pews? There is bound to be a ripple effect. Church isn’t just something we do. Church is the artery that pumps blood to so much that is necessary to run the race of faith well. Soccer games and baseball practices are not a good substitute.

The article held up those church leaders who are scrambling to respond to this trend by adding sports programs of their own, creating additional service times, etc. If churches are reaching people for Christ with these methods, I say, “Go team!” But I think it’s important to throw the ball back into the parents’ court and ask a bold question. Do our kids really need to be involved in sports?

Lets think it through for a moment:

  • What do our children really learn through sports involvement?
  • What do our families really gain by enrolling our children in organized sports activities?
  • What is really on the line when our kids miss a lot of church or our family doesn’t attend church together because of sports?

The answers to these questions need to be squeezed through the grid of God’s Word, not just our personal preferences. What is the purpose of parenting anyway? What should be the priority for our families?

I believe as parents we are called to do more than just raise good kids. Our mission is to make disciples. We also need to work hard to show them how to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). We must teach them how to make God their most important priority.

Can God be your highest priority if you play sports? Sure. I’m not talking about some legalistic line in the sand that asks all Christians to choose between sports and Jesus. But I would like Christian parents to join me in considering whether our children’s activities are contributing to discipleship or simply to busyness.

What does this look like practically? Does it mean all Christians must sit the bench? I don’t think so.

At our house it means we allow our son to play one sport in one league, and we vigilantly guard Sundays so they’re activity-free. Sports still occupy two nights per week for a span of a few months, which applies plenty of pressure to our family calendar. Would my son like to play more? Yes. But we are not willing to divvy up the time and energy that would require.

My little guys are little. I realize that makes me a bit of an armchair quarterback on this issue, but it’s less about rules and more about establishing a family priority. I hesitate to put the cart before the horse and predict what we will do in future parenting seasons, but we plan to fight hard against allowing sports to play too big a role in the lives of our children or family.

More and more leagues are being offered, more and more practices scheduled, more and more pressure applied to our children to excel in sports for one simple reason: there is a demand for these things. If we as Christian parents called a colossal time out and re-evaluated our involvement, it might make a difference in the bigger picture. It might not. But it would certainly make a difference in our children, our families, and our churches.

So, whaddya say parents? Shall we pull out the playbook of God’s Word and hold up our family schedules to it? Shall we stop going along with the sports-crazy crowd and dare to ask if raising good soccer players might be competing with raising sold-out disciples?

It’s a course that might not win us any parenting trophies in our sports-crazy world, but Paul seemed to have known that was coming when he gave us this important thought to consider (utilizing sports language no less!):

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Cor. 9:24–25)  

Does your family calendar reflect that you are seeking a perishable or an imperishable crown?

Should You Play Sports?

I read an interesting article recently that pointed out some troubling facts about the role sports is playing in many of our lives. For many of young women, soccerinvolvement in sports or other after-school activities may be in the driver’s seat, and they’re not taking you to a destination you should want to go.

Check it out:

  • The pastors of sixteen churches where attendance was dropping said that kids in sports was the number one reason why less people were coming to church.
  • More than one third of churchgoers in a separate study said that school- and sports-related activities were "quite a bit of an issue" when considering their church attendance.
  • Of those who only attend church a couple of times a year, more than two-thirds said they were too busy with other things, naming school- and sports-related activities as the biggest competitor for church attendance.

In other words, lots of people are going to church less so they can play sports more.

Why does that matter?

Church is more than just a building. It’s more than a place to hear a good sermon or sing a few worship songs. Church is the place where we are discipled to be more like Christ, where we ask for accountability from other Christians, where we can serve others often. For Christians, church shouldn’t be optional.

And yet, for many of us a busy schedule tends to push church down on the list of priorities. And church attendance isn’t the only place we see a flag on the play. I don’t have an article full of stats to back this up, but my time with teenage girls tells me that busyness also makes it hard to do some of the other essentials of the Christian life such as prayer and Bible study.

I’m not saying that sports are bad. It is possible to be an athlete and have a strong faith. I’m not claiming that the Bible says that when it comes to sports all Christians must sit the bench. But I would like us all to think through what we are really gaining through all of those practices, games, and tournaments.

If you’re involved in sports, it’s likely that you do it for the love of the game or as a way to get involved in what’s happening in your school. No problem there, but it is wise to ask yourself if being involved in sports or other extracurricular activities is pulling you away from something more important and kingdom-focused.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus gave this simple advice:

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Kingdom priorities are to be our top priority. Anything that competes for seeking God and His kingdom first simply isn’t worth it.

With that in mind, I’d like you to think through the questions below. Leave us a comment with your answers.

  • Does my participation in sports make it hard for me to be regularly involved in church and youth group?
  • Does my practice and game schedule for sports make me feel too tired to pray and read my Bible on a regular basis?
  • Judging by my schedule, what am I putting first—God’s kingdom or my activities?

What's The Big Stink About Submission?

When you think of a woman who’s a champion athlete, model, and celebrity, you might not use the word "submissive" to describe her. But that’s exactly how Gabrielle Reece describes herself when talking about her marriage.

Gabrielle has made a name for herself as a professional volleyball player, but recently she’s made headlines for something she said off the court. In her new memoir she wrote:

To truly be feminine means being soft, receptive, and—look out, here it comes—submissive.

That little sentence ignited a media firestorm, including a few heated interviews and lots of Internet backlash.

strong womanReece responded by saying that she thinks submission is a "sign of strength."

I’m not telling you all of this to focus on a pro volleyball player and her marriage. I don’t know enough about Gabrielle Reece to know what submission means to her or what it looks like in her marriage. But I do think that such a loud reaction to one woman’s stance that submission is good for her marriage points to the way our culture tends to see the submission thing—for many "submission" has become a dirty word and an idea that makes them fighting mad.

And yet God’s Word says this:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22).

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands (Eph. 5:24).

What is submission exactly?

To submit means to lay down your will for the will of someone else, to yield to, to let someone else call the shots. In the context of marriage, this means that it is God’s plan that ultimately the buck will stop with your man and that you won’t always fight for your way. But marriage isn’t the only context that God calls us to submit.

In Hebrews 13:17, He asks us to submit to our spiritual leaders (such as pastors, youth pastors, and Christian mentors).

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Ephesians 5:21 asks us to approach other Christians with an attitude of submission out of respect for Christ.

All of these situations are just practice for the ultimate relationship where we are called to submit.

James 4:7 states it plainly, "Submit yourselves therefore to God."

As Christians, God asks us to submit. That means instead of constantly fighting for our way, we are to defer to the requests and needs of others. When it comes to our relationship with God, we are to willingly swap our will for His.

Clearly, this is not a popular idea. In fact, it may make people mad if we choose to submit. We are likely to face our own internal fight as well. Submission isn’t easy. Perhaps Gabrielle is right, maybe it is a sign of strength, because it takes a strong woman to defer to others.

From pro volleyball players to average gals like me, we will likely all have to wrestle with the concept of submission at some point. We can choose to join the roar of the crowd, which screams that submission is crazy and outdated, or we can listen to the Word of God and ask Him to show us His plan for how we relate to others.

Does submission seem like a dirty word to you? Why do you think the culture gets so angry about the idea of submission? Do you agree with Gabrielle that submission is a sign of strength?

To Moms Everywhere . . .

There’s not a potted plant pretty enough to say all that needs to be said to you. There’s not a Hallmark card sweet enough to sum up our gratitude.

Mommas, you are the warriors of our world. You are equal parts soft and strong. You are paramedics, nutritionists, comforters, counselors, personal shoppers and chefs, teachers, and principals. You are life-givers and life-enrichers. Let’s face it, without you we’d all have candy for breakfast and stomach aches by lunchtime. We would feel lost in this big, scary world, but you tether us to the soft edges of home. You guide, instruct, nurture, and pray.

And all of this even though your job is often thankless. There is always one more load of laundry to fold. One more crisis to resolve. One more meal to cook. Being a mother means a lifetime of work that seems small but adds up to big stakes in the lives of your children (and their children, and their children . . .).

I know, because I’m a momma too. Because every single day I have a brief moment where I consider faking the flu so I can stay in bed and let the inmates go ahead and run the asylum. Because I know motherhood is the toughest job I will ever do, and there are no guarantees that all that effort will translate into the fantasy family in my head. Because I know our culture doesn’t get it and doesn’t esteem motherhood anymore, making our work feel even more unnoticed and unappreciated.

Because of all this, and more, I didn’t want to miss the chance to be the balm your tired mom feet may need. Or rather, to let God’s Word do that work for me:

“‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him saying, ‘Lord, when did you see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matt. 25:36–40)

Clothing little bodies. Putting cold washcloths on warm foreheads. Making endless plates of mac n’ cheese. Creating a home that says, “You’re welcome here any time.” Gassing up the car again to visit children and grandchildren in far away places. It doesn’t go unnoticed, momma. And the ripple effect of your efforts to mother go far beyond your children. Look past the “least of these” in your world, and see that your service and sacrifice has Kingdom implications.

You don’t have to work to be noticed, because Jesus already sees all you do. Your prize isn’t just a great Mother’s Day gift or a fancy brunch. It’s knowing your life is a living demonstration that sacrifice is worth it, that love doesn’t have to be earned, and that living for more than ourselves is worth every mess, stretch mark, and sleepless night.

So moms everywhere, I salute you—but you don’t need my props. Your work is God-honoring and eternal. The treasures you are storing up will outlast this Mother’s Day (and the next one, and the next one . . .).

Your family is a gift, momma, and your thank-you card has already been delivered through God’s Word. Press in to the One who gave them to you, and press on!

PS: Need to be encouraged in your role as a mom? Take our 30-Day Mom Makeover here.

PPS: Get my eBook, Beyond Bath Time, for just $1.99 through May 15.

Sticks And Stones And Broken Hearts



The video above tells a powerful story of the effects of bullying. For today’s post, I’d like to simply use this video as a jumping off point to launch a discussion about words, bullying, and hope.

Here are a few questions to consider in your comments.

  • What names have you been called that have left scars on your heart?
  • Have you called others names? What can you do to make that right?
  • Jesus was bullied. He was called names and accused falsely. What can we learn through the way He handled such mistreatment?
  • What is the difference between letting God define you and simply ignoring bullies or standing up for yourself? 

A Radical Way To Pray For Mother's Day

FACT: Only 9 percent of teenagers say that they definitely plan to become parents in their early adult years. giving Mommy a kiss

FACT: About half of the public says it makes no difference that a growing number of women don’t ever plan to have children.

What do those numbers mean?

They mean that fewer and fewer girls your age ever plan to become mommas. There are probably lots of reasons for that, but the bottom line is that we live in a culture that no longer holds up motherhood as an important role. As a result, more and more young women are saying "no thanks" to the idea of becoming mothers.

Since Mother’s Day is fast approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about this trend. I’ve been thinking about you and wondering if "mommy" feels like a bad word in your vocabulary. Are you among the 90 percent of young women who don’t plan to become mothers, or among the radical minority looking forward to motherhood someday?

For a long time I pitched my tent in the first camp. For all of my teenage years and most of my young adult life, I wanted nothing to do with motherhood. Career? You betcha! "Big" ministry for God? Yes, please! But motherhood? No way!

This is one area where God has done major open heart surgery on me. Through His Word, He has shown me that motherhood is a high and holy calling. Now, three kids later, I shudder to think about what I might have missed if I’d stuck to my boycott of motherhood.

Check out what God says about children in Psalm 127:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
When he speaks with his enemies in the gate (vv. 3–5).

There’s some old-fashioned sounding language there. Let me see if I can sum it up in modern talk.

  • Children are a blessing from God.
  • Being a momma is a reward, not a curse.
  • Children are like ammunition for the battle.
  • They should be a source of respect, even among our enemies.

The culture may say that children are a burden. You may have even bought into some of that. But God’s Word is clear—children are a blessing.

I’m not saying you all need to rush out and become mommas ASAP. (I know you still have math homework!) But this Mother’s Day, I’d love for you to start praying a new prayer. Something like …

"God, would You show me Your heart for motherhood? And help me to be open to Your plans for my future family? Amen."

It may be a long time before you receive a Mother’s Day card with your name on it. And for some of you, motherhood may not be in God’s plan for you at all. But the clear message of Scripture is that children are a blessing and motherhood is a good thing.

It’s a lesson I wish I’d learned a few Mother’s Days sooner.

Can You Honor Mom If You Can't Get Along?

mother and teen daughterThis week wraps up with Mother’s Day, a holiday dedicated to telling mom how great she is and showering her with love, gifts, and words of affirmation.

But …

What if your mom isn’t so great?
What if your mom has disappointed you? Or you just can’t seem to get along with her? Or she’s not in the picture at all?

There isn’t exactly a Mother’s Day card dedicated to saying all of that! If you find that it’s hard for you to express love to your mom this Mother’s Day, here are a few points to ponder.

Honor—No Ifs, Ands, Or Buts

Over and over in Scripture, God commands us to "honor" our parents. Here are a couple of examples.

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12).

"Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise) (Eph. 6:2).

Notice that there is no escape clause at the end of these verses. God doesn’t say honor your mother, unless she really gets on your nerves. Or honor your mother, unless her rules seem unreasonable. Or even honor your mother, unless she’s been a really crummy mom. In fact, it doesn’t talk about what kind of moms should be honored at all in these passages. That’s because God knows that we will want to find loopholes and push back against this particular commandment.  

To honor means to treat with respect. That doesn’t have to mean warm fuzzies, but it does mean to talk to your mom respectfully and to honor or follow her rules.

Even if your relationship with your mom is less than perfect right now, look for ways to honor her this Mother’s Day.

Try …

  1. Vowing not to argue or talk back for the entire day. (No eye rolling either!)
  2. Doing what she asks the first time.
  3. Writing her a card or letter that tells her what you respect about her. (I bet you can think of at least one thing!)

Be a Peacemaker

There are always two sides to every story. If your have a difficult relationship with your mom, it is likely that you are both at fault. However, since this blog isn’t, I’ll have to stick to advising you in your unique role in your relationship with your mom.

Matthew 5:9 says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Note: You’ll learn more about this verse soon as part of Paula’s series on the Beatitudes.)

If we want to be recognizable as God’s children, we need to make peace.

As Mother’s Day approaches, ask yourself these questions:

  1. In what ways am I contributing to the difficulties my mom and I are having?
  2. What can I do to make my relationship with my mom better?
  3. Is there anything I need to apologize to my mom for?

I bet your mom would accept your attempts to make peace with her as a beautiful gift this Mother’s Day.

Look For a Spiritual Mother

What if your mom isn’t in the picture? Then what? You can’t exactly honor or make peace with someone who isn’t there, can you?

First, let me say that to those of you who have lost a mom to death or divorce, I am so sorry. Your loss is huge, and I’d imagine that this is a particularly difficult holiday for you. But God sees your loss and heartbreak, and He calls His Church to reach out to you.

Galatians 4:27 says, "For it is written, ‘Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.’"

At first glance, this verse doesn’t seem to make much sense. How can a barren woman have more children than a woman with a husband? Why should a woman who cannot have children of her own rejoice? God is calling women to "spiritual mothering." It’s an idea repeated in other places in Scripture like Titus 2:3–5.

If your mom is out of the picture, ask the Lord to provide someone who can mentor, love, and guide you.  No one will be able to replace your mother, of course, but it is possible for a wise, Christian woman to mother and nurture you.

You might consider taking a proactive approach instead of waiting for a spiritual mother to drop into your lap. Who are some women you respect and admire? Ask if you can spend some time with them. (Coffee? Sushi? Lunch date?) Invite them to be a part of your life.  

The bottom line is that the mother/daughter relationship doesn’t always feel like a Hallmark card. This holiday may be a reminder that you want your relationship with your mom to be better. Don’t spend the day wishing you had a different mom; do what you can to make your relationship as strong as it can be.

Let’s get that started right now. Tell me three things you respect about your mom in a comment below or three ways you plan to make peace. No flowers or mushy cards required. 

The Big Mistake Your Tongue May Be Making

Is your tongue on fire? That’s the question I posed in Tuesday’s blog post based on James 3:5–9. That passage says:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

gossipingJames was making a powerful point that we tend to forget—just like a single spark can burn a forest to the ground, our words (even just a few of them) have the power to destroy. If you take a minute to let James’ words sink in, it’s obvious that he’s speaking the truth. You’ve been burned by the words of others, haven’t you? And I bet you’ve allowed your words to singe others in return.

If we keep reading just a little bit further, we find a specific way our words can scald:

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so (v. 10).

James specifically addresses "my brothers" in this verse, but I have a hunch that James knew a thing about girl-world when he penned these words. We’re exceptionally good at spouting blessings and curses simultaneously. What might that sound like?

"She’s really pretty, but she can be so stuck up."
"Yeah, she’s nice, but sometimes she really gets on my nerves."
"She’s such a flirt, but I just love her to death."

Blessings and curses coming out of the same mouth … often in the same sentence. We girls know how to sugarcoat our burning words, don’t we? But James simply reminds us that "these things ought not to be so."

In other words, stick to the blessings and ditch the curses all together. You’ve got no business using your words to tear down others, even if you wrap it in a compliment.

But sometimes, we just need to vent, right? After all, we’re just being honest. If you’ve ever justified blessing and cursing that way, you need to check this out:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).

This verse draws a hard line in the sand. If it tears others down, don’t say it. If it builds others up, do. Good advice in light of the fact that our tongues are a spark capable of setting an entire forest ablaze, huh?

‘Fraid you can’t straddle the fence here—you can either seek to tame your restless tongue by sticking to words that bless and build up, or you can keep starting fires by cursing and tearing down. So take a look at that hard line, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you use your words to tear others down (even when they can’t hear you)?
  2. Do you refuse to say anything that is unwholesome? That means that if it is harmful, impure, or unhelpful, you don’t say it.
  3. Do you bless and curse at the same time? Do you wrap your put-downs
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From The Archives: Excuse Me, Your Tongue’s On Fire

Is your tongue on fire? No, I’m not talking about eating spicy food. I’m referencing our power to set things ablaze with the words that we say. I’ve been struggling a bit with guarding my words lately, so I pulled up this post on the subject from our archives. Just in case any of you have a tongue that’s been smoldering, I’ve decided to repost this video and blog as a reminder that our tongues can cause a lot of damage.


In case you couldn’t load the YouTube video above, here’s a play-by-play. 

In the middle of a dark night, a single arrow is set on fire. It’s not a big fire; a little more than a spark, really. We see the arrow fly through the air. It meets its target, and BOOM! Suddenly a bonfire is raging. 

This video is a picture of a truth that James lays out in James 3:5–9:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell … no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

Aw, c’mon, James! Aren’t you being a bit dramatic? Is the tongue really capable of setting a forest ablaze? Is it really a "restless evil full of deadly poison"?

‘Fraid so. 

Let me put it this way: How many of you have been badly burned by the words of others? How many of you have deeply wounded others with just your words? Yeah, me too. 

In fact, I think our tongues are a lot like that pile of kindling from the video, just waiting for a spark to burst into flames and cause us to sin. And sins of the tongue are a lot like bonfires. There’s no such thing as a little lying or a little gossip or just a little bit of being rude to your parents. We don’t usually do just a little bit of complaining or a little bit of tearing others down with our words. Sins of the tongue can quickly become raging fires in our lives, and without God’s help we cannot reign in the flames. 

I spoke on this passage recently at a girls’ retreat in Oklahoma. After exposing our tongues as a weak spot where many of us fall into sin, I shared this verse of hope. (It’s one I write about often here on the blog because I think it matters so much in the life of every Christian.) 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16). 

Soon afterward, the craziest thing happened. One by one the girls stood up and did what James urges in this verse. 

They said …

"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of anger, and I want you to hold me accountable."
"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of sassiness, and I want you to hold me accountable." 
"My tongue is a weak spot in disrespecting my parents, and I want you to hold me

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"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of flirting, and I want you to hold me accountable."
"My tongue is a weak spot in the area of judging others, and I want you to hold me accountable."

As they shared, they worked as fire extinguishers for each other, combating the bonfire effect that sins of the tongue can have. Owning up to the fact that our tongues are an area where many of us struggle and asking for others to help us choose God’s truth can have the same effect on the readers of this blog. 

So here is my challenge to you. Leave us a comment telling us how your tongue is a weak spot when it comes to sin and how we can pray for you. Consider us your fire safety patrol, interested in pointing you toward God’s truth as we all work together to tame the tongue.

Psst … for more on this passage from James, be sure to check out Erin’s post on Thursday.


Praying for More Than ‘Safe’

I pen these words a few days after a bomber took out an eight-year-old as he waited for his dad to cross the finish line of the Boston marathon. There’s not a single day I drop my son off at preschool that I don’t think about Sandy Hook and have to fight the urge to do a U-turn in the school parking lot, bring him home, and lock all the doors. Then there are super viruses, bacterial infections, and childhood cancers. It’s enough to make me want to say this desperate prayer all day, every day, “Jesus, keep my kids safe. Jesus, keep my kids safe. JESUS, PLEASE KEEP MY KIDS SAFE!”

But our kids aren’t growing up in a safe world. In fact, no child ever has.

It’s natural to want our children to be protected from harm, but lately I’ve been thinking that when we spend all our energy praying for our children to be safe, we are missing something big. We are asking God to be our children’s safety net. Is it possible that instead He wants to call them to something dangerous?

This is how Jesus taught us to pray:

“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say:

‘Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” (Luke 11:2–4)

Jesus doesn’t teach us to avoid asking for needs to be met. “Daily bread” represents the essentials of life. Health and safety certainly qualify. But asking for those things wasn’t the essence of His prayer. His focus was on the Father’s will.

The words “your kingdom come” slay me when I think about praying for my children. I spend so much of my time praying for my kingdom. I am supposed to be praying for His.

With God’s kingdom in mind, is safe the most important thing for my kids to be? When I look hard at the life God calls us to as Christians, the answer is clearly no. The Christian life is not a safe life. It is a call to live counter-culturally and to willingly engage in battles that are big and costly.

Ephesians 6:12 offers this perspective:

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

We want our children to follow Christ, but that likely won’t lead to an easy, safe life. It means they will need to pick up their cross. It means they will need to lay down their lives. It means they will become warriors in battles against the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” It means they won’t always be “safe.”  

I have a friend who has often prayed this prayer for me:

“Jesus, make Erin and her family dangerous to the Enemy.”

Dangerous? It’s the opposite of safe. But the truth is no matter how much we wish it wasn’t so, there is no guarantee of safety in this world. And while it may temporarily soothe our anxiety to beg the Lord to hide our kids from all threats of harm, there is a better prayer we can be praying:

“Lord, make my child dangerous to the Enemy.”

It’s a prayer that may not wrap us up in comfort like begging the Lord to keep our kids safe has a tendency to do. It is a bigger prayer with bigger implications than a safety net can ever offer. But decades from now, after I am long gone and my kids come to the end of their own lives, if I’m honest, I hope they won’t have played it safe. I hope they will have given everything they have to further God’s kingdom. I hope others will see they were a serious threat to those spiritual forces of evil. As their momma, prayer is a huge part of my job, so I’m resolved to pray for more than safety. Yes, I want them to be protected, but even more than that, I want them to be dangerous.

Will you join me in praying for God to make our kids a generation that is especially dangerous to the Enemy?


A Timely Reminder for Tax Day

Moms, join Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Hannah Keeley for tonight’s online Mom Mastery Summit. Catch this great interview on Lies Women Believe at 7 p.m. on

Uncle Sam is very, very mad at me. At least that’s my assumption based on the massive tax bill he slammed on my husband and me this year. When the tax man delivered the bad news, I initially felt panic, but as this day (the day when all taxes are due) approached, I started seeing the unexpected financial blow as a blessing. Yep, a blessing.

Here are a few things I’ve learned (or re-learned) this tax season.

1. God is my provider.

Genesis 22:14 says, “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’, as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’”

Some translations insert a name of God into this passage, Jehovah-jireh, meaning the Lord provides. In Numbers 11:23, God Himself illustrates the same point after the Israelites had been grumbling that they didn’t have what they needed:

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.’”

This image here is of a God with short arms, too short to reach down and provide for the needs of His people. But God does not have short arms. In fact, His arms are long enough to reach into my needs and your needs and the needs of people around the world. He is a capable and willing Provider. I can doubt that if I want to, or I can stand back and watch as God’s promise to provide comes true for me.

I was talking to a friend about this recently, and she said that she always reminds herself that she’s never met an older person who’s said, “Well, there was that one time when God didn’t provide.” Good word!

He is faithful. He can be trusted. Providing is part of His nature.

God has provided for us in miraculous ways in this season of financial stretching. It wasn’t until I was very aware of my needs that I had the clarity to look around for all He has done for me rather than depending on what I could earn for myself.

2. I am called to ridiculous giving.

In the midst of this season of financial strain, we have had more opportunities than usual to give to others. It hasn’t made sense. No financial planner or money expert would advise us to give more to others when our finances are strapped and yet, each time we’ve given, the money has been returned to us in some way.

Paul writes about this mystery in 2 Corinthians 8. He is bragging on the churches of Macedonia who gave generously despite their “extreme poverty.” In fact, Paul was clear that they gave “beyond their means” and God multiplied it for Kingdom gains.

Deuteronomy 15:10 addresses giving to the poor and says,

“You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.”

We tend to think of giving as something that’s optional once all the bills are paid, but God wants us to give to others often and with happy hearts, even when it stretches us. I can tell you from recent experience that opportunities for sacrificial giving are a gift.

3. Dependence is a Good Thing!

I’ve frequently heard Nancy Leigh DeMoss say, “Anything that causes us to depend on Christ is a good thing.”

When the bank account is full, when bills are easy to pay, when we’ve got a two-month emergency fund, our human nature is always to coast a bit. But when we are squeezed financially or in other ways (spiritually, emotionally, relationally), suddenly we are reminded how much we need the Lord. This is a blessing because when we are reminded of our need, we have the opportunity to cling to Him. John 15:4–5 says,

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

I’m just a branch. A branch that is severed from the vine is ultimately useless. I need this reminder from time to time. Self-sufficiency is a beast I must fight hard against. So, whatever it is that causes me to cling is a good thing.

So, thank you Uncle Sam. You are an able teacher. I am grateful for the reminders you’ve given me this year (and thankful to see April 15 come and go on my calendar!).

How about you? Are you facing unexpected hardships? Financial burdens that seem impossible? Circumstances that feel hopeless? If so, I hope tax day can remind you what it’s reminded me: God is an able provider, He calls me to ridiculous giving (even when it seems impossible!), and anything that causes me to cling to Him is a good thing!

The Words Of A Groom On His Wedding Day

From the team: The following thoughts were posted by a twenty-seven-year-old groom on Facebook the day of his wedding. We thought his post was so sweet and encouraging that we couldn’t wait to pass it on to you. I hate to jump to the punch line too soon, but Josh Elliff makes two important points: 1) Waiting is possible. 2) Waiting is worth it. Cue wedding music!

Josh and Jacqueline ElliffI am twenty-seven years old. I have been single my entire life … something that will change today. I have been tempted, tested, tried, and challenged. I have been encouraged, discouraged, and on occasion have found courage. I have loved, I have lost, I have forgiven and been forgiven. I have prayed, I have cried, and I have been humbled.

Jacqueline and I have prayed for each other for the better portion of our lives without even knowing it. We have cried out to the Lord for His provision in our spouse. We did this believing He would provide. He has provided. Exceptionally. Beyond our expectations. I want everyone to know that tonight when we consummate our marriage, we will do it as virgins. This is an uncommon thing in our society. Sadly, it is an uncommon thing in our churches. We have saved ourselves for each other. So tonight, we will spend our intimacy with the only other person on the earth that we will spend it with … ever (each other).

I tell you this to encourage you. It is possible to be a virgin at twenty-seven. It’s possible to do that … and it’s beneficial too. We have no regrets of past partners. We have no baggage from past sexual partners that we have to sort through. We have both had our struggles at times, but we have intentionally protected this area of our lives. It is by the grace of God that we were able to do this. It is by the grace of God that we were able to protect ourselves during our engagement. It is because of Christ in us that we have held the marriage bed as a sacred place, only to be experienced between us and only once we have been bound to each other through the marriage covenant.

If you are single, no matter what your sexual history is, I challenge you NOW to commit this area of your life over to the Lord—even if you have struggles or mistakes in your past. God will honor your commitment to Him now. He looks at your heart now and beckons you to surrender this area to Him.

I challenge you to pray for your future spouse. I challenge you to be intentional in whom you date and how you date them. I exhort you to seek the glory of God and the sanctity of marriage FIRST in every relationship you have.

I promise you that when you get to your wedding day, you will be so thankful that by the grace of God you made that commitment. I know I am.

Don't Hit The Snooze On This

hit the snooze"I’m so glad I got to spend this time with you, Erin" she said, "because now I know how to pray for you."

These were the words of a sweet lady named Emma who was tasked with picking me up at the airport and driving me to a recent event. We had never met before, but over lunch and a short road trip we got to know the basics of each other’s lives. I learned about her grandson with special needs and her accountant husband who was busy crunching numbers in anticipation of tax time. I filed these kernels of information away as typical "getting to know you" stuff, but Emma went way beyond that. Emma was determined to use what she learned to inform how she prayed.

Emma is a prayer warrior—one of those people who operates as if she truly believes in the power of prayer. Because, of course, she does. She’s seen God work over and over, and she knows that the most important thing she can do for others is to pray.

I want to be more like Emma.

My prayer life has always been a bit wimpy. I want to be a prayer warrior, want to be a girl who runs to the Lord first and often, want to stand in the gap for others through prayer … but I rarely do.

What Emma seemed to get that I have been missing is that prayer is simply a conversation. She talked to the Lord all day long about all kinds of things. Big things. Small things. Things that matter to other people. Things that matter just to her. Things where she needs God to move RIGHT NOW and things where she is simply asking for a gradual change.

Emma didn’t pigeonhole her prayer life into a time slot or category. She simply talked to God all the time. And God listened and responded … all the time.

The rhythm of Emma’s prayer life is actually described in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which says, "Pray without ceasing."

That’s a fancy way of saying start praying and don’t stop. When it comes to prayer don’t back off, don’t break off, don’t call it a day, don’t discontinue the conversation. Just talk to God.

That’s good news. It means to be an Emma-caliber prayer warrior I don’t have to know exactly when and where to pray. I simply need to talk to the Lord and keep talking.

So with that goal in mind, I’d like to challenge us all to set our alarms for a different kind of reminder. Actually, I’d like us to commit to each setting two alarms a day for the next ten days, one for 5:17 p.m. and one for 5:17 a.m. (Yep, I know that’s early!) When the alarm goes off, we need to do a simple task—start praying. That way we will start every day by opening a dialogue with the Lord and head into each evening by keeping the conversation going.

So who’s with me? Are you willing to set their alarm as a reminder to "pray without ceasing"? If you’re in, leave me a comment below to tell me about it.

A Wise Checklist

Some of you are feeling foolish.

You left us a comment telling us so after I posted a list of what makes a fool last week. The Bible gets pretty specific about what kinds of choices fools make in orderwise girl to guide us toward the opposite of foolishness . . . wisdom.

Fortunately for each of us, the Bible doesn’t just warn us what not to do in order to avoid living foolishly, it also gives us some firm advice of what wise living looks like. So let’s revisit those verses from our "foolish checklist" and see if we can come up with a picture of what it means to be a girl gone wise.

A wise girl …

Whew! Those are high standards to live up to! The truth is, we will all fall short and make foolish choices from time to time, but Proverbs helps us see exactly what wise living should look like in order to help us avoid foolishness.

If you try to tackle that entire list at once, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed. Instead, ask the Lord to show you one or two areas where you’ve been making foolish choices and to help you choose wisdom. Then head right back here and tell us how you plan to flee from foolishness and choose wisdom this week.

A Foolish Checklist

On Tuesday I wrote about the "foolish woman" described in Proverbs 7. What makes her foolish is mostly the way she interacts with guys. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been known to act a fool around a fella a time or two. But the Bible gives strong warnings about this kind of woman. A foolish woman is someone we should all work hard to avoid becoming.

Proverbs 7 isn’t the only place we find a description of foolishness. In fact, the books of Psalms and Proverbs are loaded with warnings of what foolishness looks likejester in action. Most of these verses also offer a contrasting reality, which is wisdom.

The writer of Proverbs 7 offers this bit of advice, "Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend" (v. 4).

We should know wisdom as well as we know our very own siblings. We should keep it as close as we keep our best friends. I suppose, in contrast, we should treat foolishness like that toxic friend who only brings us down—we need to keep our distance. We should work to be so familiar with the face of foolishness that we recognize it when it comes into our lives so we can turn on our heels and run. With that in mind, here is a description of foolishness based on Psalms and Proverbs. If you see any areas where you’ve been living foolishly, stop reading and look up the passage that are mentioned to find out what the wiser choice is.

  • A fool says, "there is no God" (Ps. 14:1, 53:1).
  • A fool loves to be the center of attention and is overly confident in herself (Ps. 49:12–14).
  • A fool despises wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7).
  • A fool hates knowledge (Prov. 1:22).
  • A fool loves to maintain the status quo/resists change (Prov. 1:32).
  • A fool rebels against and embarrasses her parents (Prov. 10:1, 15:5, 20).
  • A fool talks too much (Prov. 10:8, 14).
  • A fool is a backstabber (Prov. 10:18).
  • A fool thinks doing the wrong thing is funny (Prov. 10:23).
  • A fool is reckless and careless (Prov. 14:16).
  • A fool has a quick temper (Prov. 14:17).
  • A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in expressing her opinion (Prov. 18:2).
  • A fool is always quarreling with those around her, a.k.a. drama queen (Prov. 20:3).
  • A fool spends all she has instead of saving (Prov. 21:20).
  • A fool worships herself (Prov. 30:32).

Based on that checklist, do you treat foolishness like a good friend? Do you let her into your world and let her influence the way you live? Or do you treat wisdom like your bestie and tell foolishness to keep her distance?

The “Same-Sex Marriage” Debate: An Action Plan

Yesterday, I began a dialogue about so-called “same-sex marriage” by examining the facts of two cases currently being debated in the Supreme Court. You likely didn’t need to be reminded this is an important issue, but let’s take a hard look at what’s really at stake.

The two cases the Supreme Court is debating have the combined power to radically alter the legal definition of marriage. We may want marriage to stay defined as the union between one man and one woman for lots of reasons . . . tradition, comfort, affirmation of our lifestyle. But it’s important for us to know much more is on the line. Ephesians 5:28–32 says,

“In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (emphasis mine).

From a biblical standpoint, at the heart of our understanding of marriage is that it was designed to be a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. Ultimately, it’s not about loving who we want to love or living how we want to live as much as it’s about putting the great mystery of Christ’s passionate love for His bride on display.

Right now the courts believe it’s their job to adjudicate the legal definition of marriage. Regardless of where the courts land on this, it’s the church’s job to protect the picture. We make great gains in this area when we guard our own marriages diligently and refuse to let the idea seep into our thinking that marriage is essentially a contract that can be re-written or broken, or that it is about our personal happiness. Which leads me to three action steps:

Action step #1: View marriage as a picture of Christ and the church.

We need to make sure our stance is rooted in protecting the essence and definition of marriage presented in the Word, because that definition has something to teach us all about God’s love.

Action step #2: Love homosexuals well.

I could just as easily say love “all sinners” well–whatever the nature of their dominant sin patterns. The principle applies across the board, but we seem to have a hard time as the church truly loving homosexuals, and we’ve done some collateral damage as a result.

The story found in John 8:1–11 is great homework for this point. In this passage, Jesus encounters a woman embroiled in sexual sin. Clearly, her lifestyle didn’t match up with God’s standards for holiness. Jesus didn’t ignore that, but He first stood in front of her as an advocate while the crowd clamored for punishment. He did say, “Go and sin no more,” but not until after she had been introduced to the Savior in love.

We won’t win the homosexual argument in court cases or scathing blog posts. The Gospel is the only hope we have for hearts to be made new. Those who embrace a homosexual agenda or lifestyle may not be persauded by our agenda or point of view. But there is still a God in heaven who can transform lives with His irresistible grace. 

A true story makes this point well. It’s about a lesbian English professor who encountered a pastor and his wife who simply loved her well. They didn’t try to get her to change her lifestyle. They didn’t rail at her with those verses against homosexuality I listed yesterday. They did love her, extend hospitality to her in their home, pray for her, live out God’s Truth, and patiently engage her heart and mind over an extended period of time, as the Spirit was drawing her to Jesus.

The answer to this issue, and all issues where the culture moves against God’s Truth, is revival. We need hearts changed by the Gospel, not more people who agree with us on laws and court cases. Speaking of revival . . .

Action step #3: Pray about what’s happening in our culture. Ask God to intervene.

Here’s a verse quoted so often that we tend to gloss over its power:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)

Our divided land certainly needs healing, but the deepest changes we need will not come through legislation or public policy. Prayer is not our only work. But we have no more vital work as Christians than to pray. And no other work is likely to have its desired results until we first cry out to Him in prayer. Let’s start praying for God to move. And let’s keep praying until He does. 

The culture is shifting away from a biblical worldview at pell-mell speed. Research persistently indicates that people are leaving the church in droves. Of those of us who remain in the church, fewer and fewer look to the Bible as the source of Truth. What’s happening in the courts and in the arena of public opinion is a byproduct of a bigger problem: people desperately need God and His Truth in their lives.

So let’s do the hard work required to get on our knees and stay on our knees in prayer, asking God to heal our land and to use us as truthful, gracious ambassadors for His Gospel. He has promised He will hear us and respond. With that in mind, let me issue a call to action you can do right where you sit. Ready. Set. Pray.

Understanding the “Same-Sex Marriage” Debate

I’m a news junkie. Ever since my first “real” job as a newspaper reporter, I’ve had an insatiable craving for the news. I can’t get enough of it. I want my finger firmly planted on the pulse of what’s happening . . . until recently.

It seems every news feed is honed in on the “same-sex marriage” debate. The eyes of the nation are firmly fixed on the Supreme Court as the justices decide how marriage will be defined for our entire nation. Despite my training as a journalist and instinctual urge to be in the know, this week I’ve reverted to a head-in-the-sand response.

  • How am I supposed to feel about “same-sex marriage”?
  • If my convictions go against the roar of the crowd, what should I do about it?
  • How can I have an impact on an issue so huge it has found its way to the highest court in the land?
  • How do I balance standing for God’s Truth and “judging not?”

And so I generally avoid the topic. I discuss the issue only among like-minded people. I freeze with fear. I consider the battle lost and wave a tiny white flag toward the culture. And yet . . . I know if Christians collectively put their heads in the sand our nation will suffer. There is more at stake here than public policy. There is more on the line than preferences and platitudes.

So I will force my head up. I will look hard at the issue and my own heart. I will squeeze it through the filter of God’s Word. I will think long and hard about what’s on the line, and I will act and ask God to intervene.

I hope you’ll join me. Before we tackle next steps, let’s take a look at the facts.

What’s Happening In The Supreme Court?

Recently the Supreme Court started hearings on two landmark cases:

Case #1: United States versus Windsor

This case examines the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was passed by huge majorities in the House and Senate in 1996. It was signed into law by President Clinton and through it, the federal government defines marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman. It also explicitly says no state must recognize same-sex unions conducted in another state.

Case #2: Hollingsworth versus Perry

This case came about after two same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses in the state of California as a result of the passage of Proposition 8. Prop 8 was adopted by California voters in 2008 and amended the California constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This reversed an earlier state Supreme Court ruling legalizing “same-sex marriage.” A federal district court in San Francisco later ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Then the panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sustained that decision. It has now been volleyed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The back and forth trajectory of these two cases through the court system is indicative of our nation’s feelings about homosexuality. It is an issue that is heated and polarizing.

And yet, no matter what happens in the courts, this is an issue where public opinion seems to be shifting. A Gallup poll recently reported that 54% of Americans would vote for a law granting marriage benefits in “same-sex marriage.” Only 39% said they would vote against such a law.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 58% of Americans believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry.

What Does God’s Word Say?

The facts indicate Americans in general are increasingly in favor of same-sex marriage, and there is a possibility the courts will pass down rulings reflecting this shift.

But as Christians, we are called to avoid the temptation to think like the crowd and base our beliefs on what’s happening in the culture (Eph. 4:17–24). God’s Word is our guide for what is the best way to live and what justice truly looks like. So, as we think through the homosexual debate, the most important question we can ask is, “What does the Bible say?”

I’d like you to do your own homework here. Avoid the temptation to think you already know the breadth of God’s thoughts on this issue. Instead, run to the Word yourself and ask God to show you His heart for marriage, sexuality, and the law of the land.

Here are several verses to get you started:

Leviticus 18:22
Leviticus 20:13
Romans 1:26–28
1 Corinthians 6:9–101

Spoiler alert: The bottom line is God’s Word takes a clear stand against homosexuality. And yet we still have to wrestle through questions like these:

  • Is it the court’s job to defend the picture of marriage given to us by God’s Word?
  • As Christians, are we doing kingdom work by focusing on this issue if we’re not also sharing the life-giving, transformational Gospel message?
  • What is the best way to stand for God’s Truth without compromise?

Before we go any further, let’s allow God’s Truth to sink in. Let’s seek Him, truly seek Him for an action plan. Then we’ll pick up here tomorrow with “The ‘Same-Sex Marriage’ Debate: An Action Plan.” Makes Big Announcement

From the team: After more than five years as a blog dedicated to exposing lies and replacing them with God’s truth in the lives of young women, we’ve decided to switch directions. From now on this blog will be dedicated entirely to the subject of goat herdinggoat. You can follow us at our new url 

Clearly, I’ve never been good at practical jokes … as you can tell by my sad attempt above which is a) a day late for an April Fool’s Day prank and b) not very believable. But I wanted to get you thinking about the subject of fools. April Fool’s Day is a strange tradition where we create a national pastime out of making people feel foolish, but the truth is that foolishness is no joke.

Did you know that the Bible mentions the word "fool" nearly 200 times? Most of those references can be found in the books of Psalms and Proverbs as descriptions of a foolish person. These passages tell us that to be a fool is much worse than falling for a practical joke. A foolish person is likely to find themselves in a lot of trouble as a result of their foolish ways.

In fact, Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction."

One of the first hallmarks of a fool is that they plug their ears when someone offers them wise advice. If we want to avoid being fools, we need to be eager to learn all that God wants to teach us in His Word. With that in mind, I’d like to take a couple of days to study God’s definition of foolishness so that we can all seek to live like wise women.

Proverbs 7 describes a foolish woman. Certainly, guys can act foolishly too, but since this site is dedicated to the lies young women believe (NOT to lies goatherders believe), this passage is a great place to start as we seek to understand what foolishness truly looks like.

Let me encourage you to read the entire passage yourself, but here are some of the highlights.

A foolish woman…

  • Flatters with her words (vv. 5, 21). In other words she is known to tell people what they want to hear and can be a flirt when it comes to the fellas.
  • Puts herself in bad situations (v. 9).
  • Dresses immodestly (v. 10).
  • Is loud and attention seeking (v. 11).
  • Is aggressive toward guys (v. 13).

Before you wave this passage off and assume that it could never be describing a Christian girl, notice what it says about her in verse 14:

"I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows."

Home girl had been to church. She’d made sacrifices like a good girl should and probably dropped a few coins in the offering plate, but she came home and acted however she wanted to. She checked the boxes of someone living for God, but ultimately chose to live for herself. That is what foolishness looks like.

Which brings me to you. Do you have the characteristics of a foolish woman? Here are some specific questions to help you think that through.

  1. Do you tend to tell people what you think they want to hear even when it is an exaggeration or twist of the truth?
  2. Do you talk to guys in a way that makes them think you’re interested in them?
  3. Do you approach the guys you like first instead of waiting for them to pursue you?
  4. Do you frequently find yourself in bad situations or situations where you are tempted to sin because you don’t have good boundaries in place?
  5. What does the way that you dress communicate to those around you?
  6. Do you need to be the center of attention?
  7. Do you use your words, your talents, or your presence to grab the spotlight whenever possible?
  8. Do you go to church, read your Bible, or go to youth group but tend to be someone else entirely when you are away from that scene?

I’m not looking for "right" answers here. I bet that foolish woman in Proverbs 7 could have told me what I wanted to hear if I’d given her the chance. (Remember how good she is at flattering with her words?) But I would love for you to use this list as a jumping off point to think about areas where you might be living like the foolish woman.

We’ll chat more about how the Bible defines foolishness on Thursday, but for now I’ve got to run. I’ve got a goat blog to launch!

PS: For more on the foolish woman, check out this great article on Proverbs 7 by Lies Young Women Believe author Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

What's The Big Deal About Sunday?

3 crosses

Raise your hand if you’ve been going to church since you were in the womb. Keep it up if you’ve celebrated at least fifteen Easters in church.

I can’t see those hands through the computer screen, but I am sure there are many of them raised. That’s a good thing! It’s great that so many of you are so familiar with the Easter story. But sometimes that means that when the day rolls around, we move into auto pilot—moving through the motions of pastel dresses, church services, and dinner with family without every pausing to consider why the empty tomb matters so much.

I don’t want you to miss it this year, so let’s start with the basics. As Christians, we set aside Easter to celebrate the fact that three days after Jesus was crucified, His friends came to His tomb to find it empty (John 20). At first they panicked, thinking His body had been stolen. Peter and John took off running to tell the bad news to the disciples. Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb, glued there by her grief until she heard some of the most powerful words ever spoken …

"Woman, why are you crying?" (John 20:13).

Those words came from angels. They weren’t being insensitive. They simply already knew that her grief was misplaced. Jesus was not dead. He had risen. Soon afterward, Jesus Himself appeared to Mary, then to the disciples, and then to people throughout the region before ascending back to heaven and promising to prepare a place for those of us who love and follow Him.

The moment the empty tomb was discovered was a turning point, a game changer. In fact, it changed everything. Jesus was dead. His body was in a tomb that was sealed with a stone. Mary’s wept because her friend and Savior was buried. Because He is our Savior, too, our hope was buried with Him. Everything seemed dark.

But then … everything changed in an instant. Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. The grave was empty. He wasn’t dead. He was alive. Hope wasn’t buried. It was resurrected.

Here’s a little perspective on that reality.

Buddha’s body was cremated and placed into relics.
Muhammad is buried in a mosque in Saudi Arabia.
The founder of Scientology was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.
The central figure of Rastafarianism is interred in a cathedral in Ethiopia.

Jesus alone conquered death and rose from the grave. It’s the most dramatic difference between Him and other spiritual leaders. The resurrection not only confirms His divinity, it reveals why Jesus is a safe place to put our hope.

Since He overcame death, there is nothing in our lives or in our world that Jesus cannot overcome.

To be clear, Easter is not about you. It is about a God so big that nothing, not even death, can defeat Him. But the reason we should celebrate with intentional gladness this Sunday is that there is nothing in our lives that is impossible for Jesus to overcome. There is nothing dead in our hearts or circumstances that He cannot breathe life back into.

Are there circumstances in your life that feel hopeless?
Have you had to "bury" something that you love dearly this year?
Are you facing something that feels impossible to overcome?

That’s good. You’re in a prime position to look into the empty tomb this Easter and see hope. There is nothing that can defeat Jesus. There is no power that can hold Him. There is nothing that can stop Him. All of that means He is a safe place to put our hope.

What’s the big deal about Easter? Simply put, Jesus is alive. May you worship Him with that in mind this Sunday.

Note: Portions of this post are taken from Erin’s book Beautiful Encounters: The Presence of Jesus Changes Everything, set to release June 1st.

Strap On Your Mining Hats, We're Digging For Treasure!

I’ve often said there are two kinds of girls in this world. There are the diamond-loving girls, who would rather have one itty-bitty, sparkling piece of glass on their finger than a thousand rings made of cubic zirconium. And then there are the girls who prefer funk to flash. They’d rather have chunky bracelets and necklaces made of plastic than drop the dough required to wear the real stuff.

I myself hang out in the second group. I asked for a guitar for my sixteenth birthday. When my parents got me diamond earrings instead (my birthstone), I almost burst into tears. I never did become a rocker, but my love for costume jewelry has only grown since then. My bucket (yes, bucket) of fake, plastic jewelry is on my list of items I’d grab in a fire. Even so, I can appreciate the value of the real thing. There’s something special about a diamond that was mined from within the earth rather than being manufactured by a machine. When you set my plastic jewels beside the brilliance of a real diamond, it’s clear where the real value is.

Truth is like that.

minerPsalm 119:160 says this about the truth found in God’s Word:

All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

John 17:17 says, "Your word is truth."

It’s tempting to follow the crowd, to believe everything that seems true or to live as if there is no truth at all, only "my truth," "your truth" and the squishy stuff in-between, without every stopping to ask, "Is this true?"

That way of thinking may work for a while. You may sew together a patchwork theology of ideas about God that makes sense to you, but when you hold those ideas up to the real thing—God’s Word—it will be very clear they are fake.

Which makes me wonder … are you mining for truth?

Did you know the biggest diamond ever found was more than 3,000 carats? In its original size, it was about as big as a small apple. Now that’s a lot of bling! The man who was tasked with cutting the diamond into smaller diamonds was named Joseph Asscher. Because the diamond was so rare, Asscher studied the diamond for months before making a single cut.

Can you imagine studying one rock for months? (Yawn!) Why did Asscher do that? Because he had been given a treasure that was unbelievably valuable. In fact, the first time he tried to cut the diamond, he fainted from the pressure.

Girls, I want you to be diamond cutters. More specifically, I want you to be students of the diamond, the treasure, God gives us in His Word.

Proverbs 2 gives us this bold promise:

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you … if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (vv. 1, 4–5, emphasis added).

Do you see the Bible as a treasure? Do you study it like you’re mining for precious silver?

Learning God’s Word won’t happen by accident. You can’t set your Bible on your nightstand and expect to find the kind of treasure God promises in His Word. Your youth pastor can’t download it into your brain. Your parents can’t force-feed it to you. You have to seek the treasure of God’s truth for yourself.

It will take work. It may feel like studying the same rock for months before making a single cut, but the treasure found in God’s Word is so valuable, it is worth the effort.

Sometimes, we all need a reminder that God’s Word is a treasure. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Bible is "living and active" and that it works like a sharp, two-edged sword, doing surgery on our hearts.

Do you need answers today?
Does your heart need some work in order to heal properly?
Is it hard for you to separate fake truth from the real deal?
Do you want to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God?

If so, let me give you a simple action step today. Study God’s Word. Don’t study it like it’s homework or something you have to check off some invisible good girl to-do list. Study it like it’s a treasure (because it is!). Study it like it holds the answers to what you’re looking for (because it does!). Read it like you’re mining for something precious. Then hop right back here on the blog, and tell me what you discover.

Note: Portions of this post are taken from Erin’s latest book, My Name Is Erin: One Girl’s Journey To Discover Truth. Watch for it this summer. My Name is Erin

Managing Your Manna

Oh, the Exodus. What a strange and troublesome blot on the story of God’s people . . .

Every time I read about how God delivered His people from slavery with dramatic interventions like plagues and the parting of the Red Sea I am amazed. But within a few pages, when God’s people start grumbling about petty issues like food, frankly I want to slap them silly.

How could they doubt God’s goodness after all they had seen? How could they gripe about the menu when God had delivered them from slavery? How could they consistently be such a stubborn people when God had demonstrated such a soft heart toward them? If I had been among them, surely I would have responded differently . . .

Hindsight has a way of distorting reality, doesn’t it? Since I can read the Israelites story from beginning to end, I tend to take on the role of backseat driver. I can see where they zigged but should have zagged. I can see where they grumbled but should have worshipped. I can see where they doubted but should have trusted. When I read their story, I start to feel a little self-righteous.

But lately, it has occurred to me that I don’t always do a good job of managing my manna. Manna are those things I beg God for, but once He delivers, I start complaining.

My children are a good example. I prayed and prayed for those little boys. I asked God to make them strong and healthy and brave. Oh, they’re strong all right—strong-tempered, strong-willed, and very skilled at strong-arming my day. I hear myself complaining to God about them when He has done exactly what I asked and given me exactly what I requested.

My marriage comes to mind. Ooh how I begged God to let me marry that boy fifteen years ago. And yet, my regular marriage prayers sound more like a gripe session about all that needs to change instead of an expression of gratitude for my husband.

My job is another example. I love what I do. I get to write and speak and occasionally travel. About eight years ago, I quit my job as a high school history teacher because I wanted to become a Bible teacher. For nearly a year I sat in an empty home office with nothing to do, nothing to write, and no one asking me to speak.

All day every day I begged God to give me opportunities to teach His Word. He has done it. And yet, with nearly every deadline or speaking engagement my first response is to grumble. It turns out that being a Bible teacher is hard work. It requires studying (and more studying), sacrifice, oh . . . and actual effort on my part. God gave me exactly what I asked for and yet, so often I complain about it.

What happened when the Israelites failed to manage their manna? What was God’s response when they complained after He gave them exactly what they asked for?

“Now the people began complaining openly before the Lord about hardship. When the Lord heard, His anger burned, and fire from the Lord blazed among them and consumed the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and he prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So that place was named Taberah, because the Lord’s fire had blazed among them” (Num. 11:1–3).

The memory of that fire must have lasted about as long is my own memory of God’s goodness. Before long the people started complaining that they didn’t have fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic (Num. 11:5).

How ungrateful do you have to be to complain about a shortage of leeks? Moses got caught up in the collective misery and asked God to kill him in order to deliver him from the sound of the Israelites’ constant complaining (Num. 11:14).

What a hissy fit! And all over some herbs and meat!

There are loads of warnings in this story, but here’s my big takeaway:

1.    My default is to complain, even when God gives me exactly what I ask for.
2.    When I allow my heart to go there, I can expect anger to be God’s (righteous) response.

I wonder if you need the same reminder?

Are you managing your manna well? Do you receive the things you ask God for with a heart of gratitude and praise? Or are you more like me and those stubborn Israelites? Is grumbling your default? Do you tend to approach God always asking for more?

Who's Having The Best Sex?

The culture says it’s best to take partners for a "test drive" when it comes to sex before marriage. God’s Word says to save sex until after you say, "I do."
Just Married

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who really understands how sex is supposed to work?

One way to find out is to ask a bold question—who is having the best sex? The answer may surprise you.

The culture may be screaming that practice makes perfect when it comes to great sex. But proponents of that thinking simply aren’t doing their homework.

In an article titled "Sex Without Marriage Often Ruins People’s Health and Well-being," physician John R. Diggs Jr. outlined the specific and often devastating consequences of unmarried sex, including promiscuity, abortion, unstable family life, displacement of men, and exposure of women and children to high risks.

Clearly, sex outside of marriage is not "practice" without potential pitfalls. Perhaps that’s why research proves that married people are having the best sex. An article titled "Aha! Call It the Revenge of the Church Ladies" published in USA Today concluded that Christian women (and the men who sleep with them, aka their husbands) are among the most sexually satisfied people on the planet.

Yep. You read that right. According to a neutral, non-Christian magazine, Christian, married couples are having the best sex.

Why? Because sexual enjoyment flourishes in the context of a committed relationship. In contrast, sex outside of marriage isn’t "practice." It isn’t a "good opportunity to measure future sexual compatibility." It is outside of God’s plan and the result is baggage—not freedom. The very best sex comes from sticking to God’s plan.

Beyond simply waiting for great sex, there is a lesson here about God and His Word. When He asks us to wait for something, or to avoid it altogether, it isn’t to punish us or to keep us sidelined from the fun. When He gives us boundaries, it is always for our good.

Psalm 119:75 says, "I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous."

First John 5:3 says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome" (emphasis added).

The facts about great sex are just one example of the truth that God has our best in mind. His laws are for our good. The way He asks us to live is the very best path we can choose.

Is He asking you to wait for something right now? Do you wonder if the culture is right and you need to "test drive" those things that God asks you to postpone? If so, here’s a prayer, straight from God’s Word, that I want to encourage you to start praying:

Put false ways far from me
and graciously teach me your law!
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart! (Ps. 119:29–32).

Is “Born-Again Virginity” Possible?

Yesterday I mentioned that this year’s star of The Bachelor, Sean Lowe, has made headlines by declaring himself a "born-again virgin." Presumably what he means is that he was once sexually active, but decided to take a different path and has now committed to saving sex until after marriage.

I am not holding Sean up as the poster boy for purity. But he does raise an interesting question—once someone has lost their virginity, can it ever be reclaimed? Is itclean slate possible to be a "born-again virgin"?

It’s a question worth exploring.

I’ve talked to many young women who mistakenly believe that once they’ve had sex, they cannot stop or turn back. Having already lost their virginity, they see no way to get it back. So they decide it’s too late for them and keep making things worse by perpetuating this behavior, going against God’s clear and loving plan.

If that describes you, I want you to know that it is absolutely not too late for you. It’s true that you can never become a physical virgin again. That’s water under the bridge. But you can become a spiritual virgin. God can wipe the slate clean.

Here’s how.

1. Acknowledge your sin.

Don’t say "I blew it" or "I made a mistake." Don’t come up with excuses. Call your sexual activity what it is—sin. This step is called repentance. Repentance simply means to agree with God that sin is sin with no rationalizations or intent to commit it again.

2. Confess it.

In 1 John 1:9 we read, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Once you’ve admitted that your sexual activity outside of marriage is sin, confess it to God.

3. Accept Christ’s forgiveness.

For many sexually active girls, this is the most difficult step. In 1 John 1:9, God promises that He will forgive us of our sin and wipe the slate clean.

This is where the idea of born-again virginity comes from. His promise is to "cleanse us from all unrighteousness." God offers the gift of total forgiveness and a chance to do things over.

But girls who continue to have sex outside of marriage often feel cheap, used, and unworthy of God’s love, and so they continue to sin. When you consider yourself beyond forgiveness, you are saying that God is not all-powerful and that He is unable to cope with the magnitude of what you’ve done. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Colossians 2:13–14 says, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

When you accept Christ’s forgiveness for your sexual sin, you agree that God’s grace—evident in Christ’s death on the cross—is sufficient payment for your sin.

The beautiful truth of the gospel is that all of us have the chance to be "born again" no matter what the nature of our sin is.

First Peter 1:23 describes this possibility: "Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God."

Some of you may well be "born-again virgins," who were once slaves to sexual sin, but by God’s grace are now a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17), just like some of us are born-again liars, born-again gossips, born-again narcissists, and born-again addicts. True, we all face the consequences of our sin, and there are consequences for sex outside of marriage that don’t go away when we choose the path of purity. But The Bachelor is a reminder that we always have the choice to run in the opposite direction of sin and that God’s grace means He is willing and able to wipe the slate clean.

Now that deserves a television special …

Note: Portions of this post are taken from a book Erin wrote with Josh McDowell titled The Bare Facts: 39 Questions Your Parents Hope You Never Ask About Sex.