4 Good Reasons to be Baptized

4 Good Reasons to be Baptized

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

We study God through His Word each Thursday on the blog. Our goal is to present the truth of God in a way you can digest and apply.

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This week we will look at what God’s Word says about baptism.

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

She didn’t want to be baptized.

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

"I just don’t think I need to."
"I don’t want to."
"I’m a Christian. I love Jesus. I think that’s enough."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like how Pastor John Piper puts it:

Faith unites us to Christ; baptism symbolizes the union.

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

You should be baptized because Jesus commanded it.

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

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

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

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

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

You should be baptized because Jesus did it.

Matthew 3 tells the story of Jesus’ baptism:

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

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

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

Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us:
Four good reasons to be baptized today on @lywbblog.

Freebie Friday! Connected

Freebie Friday

If you’ve ever looked at your list of Facebook friends and felt like none of them really know you . . . this book is for you.

If you have lots of friends, a full schedule, and a lonely feeling you can’t seem to shake . . . this book is for you.

If you feel like no one really knows you or understands you . . . this book is for you.

Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together is a book about loneliness, kind of. It’s the story of how I spent most of my life lonely. But it’s not a sad story. Spoiler alert: I’m not lonely anymore. I ran to God’s Word and found answers to my questions about:

  • What my relationships are supposed to look like.
  • Why God wired me to crave connection.
  • How to connect with God and others.

It’s good stuff, and I want to get it into the hands and hearts of lonely girls everywhere.

I’d love for you to read (and then share!) a sample chapter. I’ll pick one of you to win a free copy of Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together.

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Is God an American?

Is God an American?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

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

God bless America, land that I love . . .

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

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

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

God is an International God

The truth is God reigns and rules over all nations.

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

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

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

God’s In Charge

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

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

God’s Grace is For All Nations

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

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

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

God Will Judge the Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re celebrating America’s birthday by praying for her. Join us on @lywbblog!

Freebie Friday! Seeking Him

Freebie Friday

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

This is a study that will take you DEEP into God’s Word—no coasting allowed! But the end result is a heart revived by God’s truth.

Here’s how you win.

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Is God Mad at Me?

Is God Mad at Me?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

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

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

Sweaty palms.

Pit in my stomach.

An overwhelming urge to hide.

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I’ve found.

Yes, God gets mad.

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

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

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

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

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

And what is it that makes God angry, anyway?

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

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

Mad for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is God mad at you?

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

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

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

Is God mad at you? Find out on @lywbblog today.

Freebie Friday! The Quiet Place

Freebie Friday

Think of a quiet place.

Go on . . . surely you can think of one spot in your world that is totally quiet?

No?

Hmmm . . . that must make it hard to be this kind of girl:

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Pet. 3:4).

In a world that seems to constantly be screaming at us, finding a quiet place to pray and read the Bible can be tough! That’s why this week we’re giving away The Quiet Place by Lies Young Women Believe co-author Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Here’s what Nancy writes in the book’s introduction:

Far too often, far too many of us—myself included—opt for checking Facebook over meditating on His Book, playing Words with Friends over savoring the Word of our dearest Friend.

If that describes you, be sure to enter our Freebie Friday giveaway this week to win A Quiet Place.

Here’s how you win!

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This Ain’t About Throwbacks

Women at home rocking tea-length dresses, frilly aprons, and adorable high heels, vacuuming with an Electrolux vacuum, while their 2.5 children play quietly nearby . . .

Is this the picture of perfect womanhood?

If you listen to the cultural debate on gender roles, you might think so. Too often, when we talk about womanhood, the discussion disintegrates into two sides trying to draw hard lines in the sand on issues like . . .

  • Whether or not women should work outside the home.
  • Who wears the proverbial pants at work, at church, and in the home?
  • What is femininity, exactly?

The problem with drawing lines in the sand is that, inevitably, the tides turn and those lines get washed away. Just as soon as everyone seems to settle in to a new concept of womanhood, the culture shifts, and we are left to debate gender roles all over again.

Since sin slithered its way into a woman’s heart, womanhood God’s way has always been a struggle.

These are interesting times for sure. I believe that gender is the battlefield on which God’s Word is currently being challenged. I believe that when it comes to womanhood, the traditional will soon become radical and that womanhood according to God’s design is well on it’s way to being seen as an “alternative lifestyle choice.” I believe the reasons why I am not a feminist (you can read more about that in yesterday’s post) will continue to be tested and tried, stretched and debated in every public forum in the years to come.

None of that scares me, because this ain’t about throwbacks. It’s about choosing to look at God’s Word as the plumbline for who I am made to be.

True womanhood is not about returning to some ideological era where men went to work and women happily stayed home and did laundry while raising adorable, obedient children. Despite what your scrapbooks may tell you, that era never existed.

There has never been a golden age of womanhood. There’s never been a window of time when the culture all agreed on what womanhood should look like and living God’s way was fully accepted and en vogue.

Want proof? Check out the battle that raged in the heart of the first woman.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,” but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it lest you die.” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And the sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Gen. 3:1–7).

We see in Eve a woman who . . .

  • desperately wanted independence
  • ignored the authority God had placed over her
  • wanted to call the shots
  • forgot the promises of God
  • twisted Scripture to fit her agenda
  • flirted with sin and became entangled

Sound familiar?

Yesterday, I defined feminism this way:

  • valuing independence over dependence
  • resisting authority
  • convincing women that their roles are undesirable or second class

When we look at Genesis 3, we see feminism wasn’t born in college classrooms or women’s liberation rallies. Feminism was born in the Garden of Eden. The lie that women are free to step outside of God’s plan for them without consequences was whispered into the very first woman’s ear. It has continued to be whispered ever since. The battle to live according to God’s design isn’t a modern one. It has been raging since the beginning.

So to be clear, I’m not passionate about a cultural return to the 1950s. Frankly, vacuuming in high heels has never been my thing! This isn’t about finding some spot on the map of history and saying, “Look there! That was a time when women got things right.” Since sin slithered its way into a woman’s heart, womanhood God’s way has always been a struggle.

While the message of true womanhood can get a little tangled amidst the cultural debate, it’s really quite simple.

  • I believe that God created men and women, as equal but distinct image-bearers of God.
  • I believe that since He is our Creator, He gets to decide how our gender is best displayed.
  • I believe that He outlined the blueprint for womanhood and manhood in His Word.
  • I believe that by seeking to be the woman He designed me to be, I am putting His glory on full display.

As you consider the culture war about gender and decide where you stand, can I encourage you not to run to some ideological age of history, but rather to run straight to God’s Word? I know what you’ll find—a description of your identity that is timeless and eternal (high heels optional!).

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read part one,”Why I’m Not a Feminist.”

Why I’m Not a Feminist

Drop this word into a room full of women and you’re sure to ignite a firestorm . . .

Feminism.

On the surface level, feminism looks benign. If feminism is simply the advocacy for women’s rights based on the idea that we are equal to men, I’m a believer.

My gender theology comes from Genesis 1:27.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

From the very first book of the very first chapter of the Bible, we see that men and women were created equal by God, equally esteemed by God, and given the equal and complementary task of being image-bearers of God.

The Bible is clear, when it comes to our value to the Creator, men and women are equal.

But the message of feminism does not stop there. You may be wondering, Who cares? This isn’t a blog about historical social movements after all. Didn’t women leave their bra-burning ways back a couple of decades ago?

In truth, feminism is the radical idea that women are god, capable of being their own authorities.

Actually, no. The message of feminism is alive and well, and it is no longer relegated to liberal university classrooms and Washington D.C. As the granddaughter of a feminist, I am increasingly aware of the ways the message of feminism has trickled into my heart and mind. I’m not the only one. A new wave of feminism is swelling among my peers and the generation under us.

As Christian women, it’s wise for us to consider the message of feminism and squeeze it through the grid of God’s Word. I don’t have all of the answers, but I know this: Because of the Bible, I am not a feminist. Here’s why.

Feminism Values Independence over Dependence

I recently saw these promises on the cover of a popular teen magazine . . .

  • Girl Power
  • Live Your Dreams
  • Score Total Independence
  • Make Your Own $$
  • Starting Now!!!”

While financial independence is a good thing, “total independence” is not God’s plan (especially for the thirteen through sixteen year olds this magazine targets). God does not intend for us to be renegades who live without the assistance and accountability that our families, friends, and churches offer. Even more than that, God wants us to depend on Him, not take the proverbial bull by the horns.

As a little girl in a post-feminist world, I was taught that being an independent woman was a dream come true. But can I be honest? It didn’t do me any good to be taught that independence was my highest good. That kind of thinking didn’t prepare me for marriage. It didn’t prepare me to be a contributing member of the Church. It didn’t prepare me to depend on the Lord.

Proverbs 3:5–6 says,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

Feminism asserts that it’s a woman’s right to do, be, feel whatever she wants, regardless of the input of others. Because of that . . .

Feminism Resists Authority

The Bible is clear that authority is for our good. Romans 13:1–7 insists that everyone (men and women) be subject to governing authorities because all authority is “approved by God” (v. 1). First Peter 2:13–25 urges us to be subject to every human institution. Why? “For the Lord’s sake” (v. 13). Hebrews 13:17 encourages us to obey our spiritual authorities with joy and without groaning. And finally, in a passage that has a tendency to really ruffle feminist feathers, Ephesians 5:22–23 urges wives to submit to the authority of their husbands.

When you study the totality of God’s Word, it’s clear that God commands us to honor and obey our authorities for our own good. No authority is beyond His reach. No one has more say in our lives than He does.

Ultimately, the way we respond to our human authorities is very likely to be how we respond to the authority of God. If we arch our backs and pump our fists at every person and institution that infringes on our perceived rights, we are likely to respond in kind to God when He calls us to surrender to Him.

One of the mantras of feminism is that “feminism is the radical idea that women are people.” In truth, feminism is the radical idea that women are god, capable of being their own authorities.

Feminism Denigrates the Roles of Wife and Mother

Famous feminist Gloria Steinem said, “A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.”

If sex outside of the covenant of marriage and work outside of the home are the trademarks of liberation, you can count me out.

Idol worship never meets our needs. Only God can do that.

While the headlining message of feminism has always been equal rights for men and women, a consistent, secondary message has been that women need more than being “just” wives and moms. This just doesn’t jive with the truth that God highly values the roles of wife and mother.

I could shout from this soapbox all day, but I think this point is best made with just two passages of Scripture.

In Ephesians 5:32 Paul is describing marriage when he says, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for His bride. As wives, we are putting the mystery of the gospel on display. That picture is cheapened when we devalue marriage.

Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

Children are a blessing, not a burden. Motherhood is sacred, not old fashioned or out of date.

Feminism Doesn’t Work

As a young woman with a shallow understanding of God’s Word and a steady drip of feminist ideals into my heart, I didn’t know it, but I was a feminist. I believed I was the captain of my own destiny, that the path to fulfillment was through a killer career, and that men were best avoided or controlled. But you know what? It didn’t work.

Independence left me lonely.
Success left me addicted.
My new marriage was stretched and strained.

Ultimately, the promises of feminism just didn’t hold true. It is a belief set that ultimately promotes self to the point of idolatry. Idol worship never meets our needs. Only God can do that.

There are lots of causes I’d gladly march in support of, but feminism just isn’t one of them. God’s blueprint is what’s best for me as a woman. The message of feminism is a cheap substitute.

Mind hopping back on the blog tomorrow so we can continue this conversation with my follow-up post, “This Ain’t About Throwbacks?”

Until then, I’d love to hear from you. How has the message of feminism impacted you? How do you think it holds up to the magnifying glass of God’s Word?

Read part two, “This Ain’t About Throwbacks.”

 

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

Freebie Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now what?

How do I study the Bible?

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

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

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

Sounds like great summer reading to me!

How to win

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

Giveaway Question: What’s your favorite psalm?

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A Godly Girl's Guide to Fighting

A Godly Girl's Guide to Fighting

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

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

When to confront a friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Have the talk.

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

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

Sounds simple enough, but usually we complicate it.

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

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

Step 2: Get a mediator.

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

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

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

Wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Get your church involved.

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

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

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

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

Step 4: Love extravagantly.

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

Gentile?

Tax collector?

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

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

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

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

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

Willing to fight God’s way.

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

Join me?

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Four Questions to Ask Before You Confront a Friend

Four Questions to Ask Before You Confront a Friend

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

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

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

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

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

Relationships are messy.

Loving others like God means agreeing to get messy.

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

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

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

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

Question 1: Am I angry?

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

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

Let me say it another way.

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

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

Question 2: Am I judging?

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

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

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

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

Question 3: Am I trying to win?

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

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

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

Question 4: Do I love peace?

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

I know what you’re thinking . . .

"But she . . ."

"But you don’t understand what’s going on . . ."

"But I’ve tried and she just won’t . . ."

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

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

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

A Godly Girl’s Guide to Fighting

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

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

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Are you fighting mad at a friend? Here are four questions to answer before you go to her. (Be sure to include a link to today’s post.)

Freebie Friday! Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl

Freebie Friday

Wanna play Simon Says?

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

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

Raise your hand!

I’m assuming your hand is up!

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

How does it work?

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

What’s the catch?

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

Drum roll please

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

Why this book? Check out this description:

     

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

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

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

How to win it

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

Oh, and . . .

Simon says put your hands down!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Why I’m Sick of Women’s Conferences

I’ve been to eight women’s conferences in the last three months. I’ve got the t-shirts to prove it. As a Bible teacher, I have the privilege of attending lots of these events to speak. I meet beautiful women with hearts full to the brim with a desire to serve Jesus at every single one. But can I be honest? I’m a little sick of women’s conferences.

Tired of the Message

It’s not that I’m tired of being with other women. (I’m a mom of three boys, I’ll take all of the estrogen I can get!)

I’m not sure I could ever grow weary worshiping in a sanctuary full of women.
I love to hear the testimonies of how God has worked in the lives of others.
And usually, the food’s great too!

But there’s a message I hear at most women’s conferences (and young women’s conferences) that needs revisited. I heard it spoken from almost every stage I sat near this spring.

It sounds something like this . . .

You’re beautiful.
You’re valuable.
You matter.

What’s my beef with a message that warm and fuzzy? It’s a good message. But it’s not the message that women most need to hear.

The Message We Really Need

I understand how we got here. We live in a culture that pillages women’s self-esteem by screaming at us that we must be thinner, tanner, and more organized. It’s hard to stand tall when the pressures of our culture force our collective shoulders to sag and our heads to drop. And a woman who does not understand her value is guaranteed to cause some collateral damage in her relationships. Yes, women need to be told they matter.

We don’t need messages that turn our focus toward ourselves. We need messages that pry our eyes away from our needs, our wants, our desires . . . and toward Jesus and His calling that we serve others.

But we don’t matter because we’re beautiful. We don’t matter because we have what it takes. It’s not our self-esteem that needs attended to. It’s our spirits.

We need to be reminded that Jesus is the source of Living Water. The headwaters of everything we need are found in Him.

Instead of hearing that we matter, we need to hear how much the God of the Universe matters. We are small and insignificant compared to his vast glory. We need to hear that He treasures us anyway (Mal. 3:17).

Instead of hearing that we are beautiful, we need to be reminded that God’s Word is beautiful. It is a treasure trove full of riches beyond measure. If we study it and apply it, we can have “imperishable beauty” (1 Pet. 3:4). The fountain of youth is only found in God’s Word.

Instead of hearing that we have what it takes to make it in this world, we need to be reminded that we are poor (Ps. 86:1), needy (Ps. 109:22), and sinful (Eccl. 7:20). The message we need to hear over and over is the life-giving Gospel, that Christ died to set us free from sin and death; that because of His sacrifice we can have victory. We cannot do it without Him, but through Him and because of Him we can do all things (Phil. 4:13).

When we allow women to walk out of our conferences and churches feeling better about themselves but less dependent on Christ, we are doing them a disservice. Women don’t need fluff. We need the meaty Truth of the Gospel straight from the Word of God. We don’t need messages that turn our focus toward ourselves. We need messages that pry our eyes away from our needs, our wants, our desires . . . and toward Jesus and His calling that we serve others.

Simply put, the message that every woman needs is the Gospel. Without it, we are just spinning our wheels.

How about you? Will you join me in pointing women toward messages that matter?

Psst . . . If you’re tired of the fluff, I’d love for you to join me at True Woman ’14. This will be my fourth time to attend a True Woman conference. I can’t get enough, because it’s a woman’s event that points women to Jesus and His Word. I never walk away full of myself, but always leave full of Truth straight from God’s Word.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “Who Am I? The Good, the Bad, and the Gospel.”

 

A Test You Don't Want to Flunk

A Test You Don't Want to Flunk

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

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

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

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

Shocked, the young man asked why not.

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

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

Just the Facts Ma’am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Quiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cheat Sheet

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

The Grade

How’d ya do?

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

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

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

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

How well do you know God’s Word? Take this quiz and find out. (Be sure to include a link to today’s post.)

The Perfect Summer Internship

The Perfect Summer Internship

 

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

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

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

Are you ready for it?

It’s the perfect summer internship!

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

A mom? Really?!

Yep, really!

Here are a few reasons why.

God sees children as a blessing.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

God thinks moms rock!

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

 

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

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

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

Moms need help!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Leave me a comment below with your game plan.

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

 

 

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The Best Friend a Girl Could Want

The Best Friend a Girl Could Want

I’ve got a great friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember that the Holy Spirit is God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He seals us (Eph. 1:11–14).

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

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

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

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When We (kind of) Believe in Karma

We don’t want to cut back on ministry outreaches in the year ahead, so we’re asking the Lord to provide at least $435,000 by the end of this month. Will you help?

Two of my three sons have bad kidneys. That means that since my first ultrasound for my very first baby, we have carried the burden of knowing there is something inside our children’s bodies we cannot fix.

On good days you will hear me talk about how I know this was filtered through the fingers of a loving God. I’ll talk about prayer and faith and peace. I mean those things. I really do. I’m not just blowing smoke or trying to talk myself into something.

But there are bad days.

If karma existed, the sovereignty of God could not.

A really bad day came along several months ago. Judah, my third born son and second child with damaged kidneys, was just four weeks old. We were scheduled for an invasive test with a specialist. That morning I woke up feeling like a boulder had been tied around my chest. The weight of my fear was so heavy.

In the midst of the dread, and worry, and anxiety, this thought slithered its way into my heart . . .

“It’s because I’m a bad mom.”

I had done something to cause this. I was certain of it. More specifically, I had done something to deserve it. This was my punishment for all of those times I lost my cool. God blocked my baby’s kidneys because He was mad at me.

In other words, on some level . . .

I (kind of) believe in karma.

Karma is a spiritual principle that our actions create a force that will

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determine what happens to us. If we are good, good things happen. If we are bad, bad things happen. Buddhists believe that wholesome actions lead to happiness, and unwholesome actions lead to suffering. Hindus believe that how we act in this life will determine if we come back as a dung beetle or a rich ruler in the next.

But I’m a Christian. I believe that God is sovereign (Ps. 103:15–19); that every word of the Lord proves true (Prov. 30:5), and that He loves me, even when it doesn’t feel like it (Jer. 31:3). I believe my eternity is secured by the blood of Jesus, not my ability to tow the line (Heb. 10:19).

Thank goodness that karma is hogwash. Because nothing we do can scrub our hearts clean. Only Jesus can do that.

If karma existed, the sovereignty of God could not. How could God be in charge of all things, and I have the power to change my trajectory with every good and bad decision? If karma is real, the promises of God are not. Romans 8:31–39 promises that God is for me. That’s not the same as waiting to punish me every time I mess up.

And here’s the nail in karma’s coffin . . .

If karma is real, it makes the gospel null and void.

If karma exists, Christ would never have died for me. I certainly don’t deserve such ridiculous grace. My actions have not earned it. In fact, karma earned me a reservation in hell. I’ve done plenty of “unwholesome actions.” I deserve suffering. But Christ suffered in my place.

You know, our twisted sense of karma can work the other way, too? Karma tells us that we deserve God’s favor because we’ve been so good. We deserve for things to go smoothly in our lives because we read our Bibles, go to church, and cuss less than the people on TV. While some days I feel like I deserve to suffer because of the mistakes I make as a mom, there are other days when my heart screams, “Why did this have to happen to my children? Don’t you see all that I’ve done for you! I don’t deserve this.”

But God’s Word says no one is good (Ps. 53:3) and that compared to the blinding white holiness of God, my righteous deeds are nothing more than dirty rags (Isa. 64:6).

Thank goodness that karma is hogwash. Because nothing we do can scrub our hearts clean. Only Jesus can do that.

On bad days, I kind of believe in karma. But just because I believe it, doesn’t mean it’s true (Prov. 14:12).

What did I do on the day fear screamed that I earned my suffering?

I called a wise, older woman who was able to pray with me and preach God’s truth to my hurting heart.

“God loves you,” she said. “He will carry you through this.”

Her words provided enough clarity for me to know where to run next. I dropped my bucket down once again into the deep well of God’s Word. No karma there. Just life-saving, heart-healing, fear-lifting, path-straightening truth.

Truth like . . .

Jesus died for me. He died for my sons. He has faithfully carried us through every test and procedure. Not because we deserve it, or have earned it, but because He loves us. I don’t believe He’d turn His back on me in any operating room even on my worst parenting day.

Because karma isn’t real. God and the gospel are.

Do you (kind of) believe in karma? Here are three questions to help uproot that lie in your heart.

  • When suffering comes, do I suspect God is punishing me?
  • Do I feel like I deserve a comfortable life because I am a good Christian?
  • Do I grasp that it is the gospel that saves me, not my good works?

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “Asking Why.”

 

Why Doesn't God Speak Out Loud to Me?

Why Doesn't God Speak Out Loud to Me?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit speaks to us.

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

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

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

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

In both cases, the Spirit gave very specific instructions.

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

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

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

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

God speaks to us through the Church.

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

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

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

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

God speaks to us through visions and dreams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God speaks out loud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you? How have you heard God speak?

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

Sure, God can speak out loud. Find out why He doesn’t have to on @lywbblog today. (Be sure to include a link to today’s post.)

Giving God the All-In Card

Giving God the All-In Card

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

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

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

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

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

But Elisha did!

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

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

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

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

Elisha went all in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What does it look like to go all in? Find out on the @lywbblog today. (Be sure to include a link to today’s post).

If Your Donkey Doesn't Talk, Does God?

If Your Donkey Doesn't Talk, Does God?

the·ol·o·gy noun : the study of God

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

A talking donkey

A burning bush

A quiet wind

A voice from heaven

A big book

A sheep fleece

A rainbow

A pillar of fire

A cloud of smoke

What do these things have in common?

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

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

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

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

Jesus put it this way:

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

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

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

God speaks through creation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God speaks through our conscience.

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

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

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

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

God speaks to us through Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God speaks to us through His Word.

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

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

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

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

God has a billboard. What did He write on it? Find out on the @lywbblog today. (Be sure to include a link to today’s post.)

A Beautiful Encounter with Our Savior (And a Giveaway!)

It was a very dark day for one momma.

Her only son was dead. She had already buried his daddy. Her heart was broken. Her family was gone. She was destitute.

Luke tells the story this way,

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her.

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother (Luke 7:13–15).

If you raced through that passage, (we’ve all become speed readers haven’t we?) would you mind going back and reading it again? Place yourself in the story. What jumps off the page at you?

Jesus defines compassion as love in action.

I recently found myself parked on this story for several days while preparing to teach “Beautiful Encounters,” a radio series launching on Revive Our Hearts today. As a mother of sons, I can’t fathom attending one of their funerals, especially as a widow. This momma’s desperation seemed to leak out of my Bible and into my heart as I read.

But so did this little gem . . .

“And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”

Jesus gave him to his mother.

He didn’t have to. He could have commanded him to walk. After all, that’s what he did for Lazarus. Instead, he gives the boy back to his momma. Because in that huge crowd of people, she was the one who needed him most.

When the widow of Nain encountered Jesus she really had a collision with compassion. When we look at her story, we can see that Jesus defines compassion as love in action.

She’s not the only one, you know?

Psalm 56:8 says, “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”

God sees our tears and is moved with compassion by our pain. I love the image that He collects them all in a bottle.

Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Maybe He is collecting all of our tears in a bottle so that one day we can watch Him dump that bottle out? In any case, he sees our pain, and He has a plan to set things right.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have the chance to tell the story of the widow of Nain. Because it’s really a story about a compassionate Savior.

Just like . . .

  • Anna’s story is really an encounter with Divinity.
  • The story of the adulterous woman is really a run-in with Grace.
  • Mary and Martha’s story is really about true friendship.
  • The Samaritan woman’s story is a chance to sip Living Water.
  • The story of Jarius’ daughter is about power.
  • And Mary Magdalene’s story changes everything.

These are the stories I’ll be telling all week on the broadcast. I hope you’ll make plans to listen in and have an encounter of your own with Jesus, the God who loves to put His love in action toward you!

I’d love for you to listen in. Leave me a comment below telling me how you’ll catch the series (local Christian radio, podcast, online). I’ll choose five of you to win a free copy of the Bible study version so that you can dig into these stories on your own.

Praying you have an encounter with Jesus of your own along the way!

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “Immanuel Changes Everything.”

 

Who am I? The Good, the Bad, and the Gospel



Come worship Christ and learn how to live in His fullness with thousands of your sisters at True Woman ’14 in Indianapolis on October 9–11. Only 23 days left for early registration.

Yesterday, I wrote about the character of God in His own words. I was blown away by what I found in the Bible when I decided to study every place that God says “I am . . .” You can check out that post here.

I can’t change my own heart and mold myself into Christ’s image.

Certainly, the qualities of God are vast and impressive, but they become even more so when we get serious about who we really are.

Who are you?

It’s a simple question that almost always has a complex answer. If I asked you, “Who are you?” I bet you’d start with the good stuff (we all do). You might tell me about your beautiful family or your great job or all the ways you volunteer in your church or community. We like to polish our identity up to a high shine, but that’s not the whole story is it?

David has a way of writing with a brand of brutal honesty that I am drawn to in the Psalms. He finishes the sentence I am . . . in a way that checks my spirit. Here’s what he wrote.

I am . . . fleeting (Ps. 39:4).

I am . . . poor and needy (Ps. 86:1; 109:22).

I am . . . languishing (Ps. 6:2).

I am . . . lonely and afflicted (Ps. 25:16).

I am . . . afraid (Ps. 56:3).

I am . . . afflicted and in pain (Ps. 69:29).

I am . . . helpless (Ps. 88:15).

Are you ready for a confession? I am all of those things, too. As important as my life seems to me, the Bible describes it like a vapor (James 4:14). That’s what David meant when he called himself “fleeting.” I often find myself needy, lonely, afraid, and in pain, just like David did. I am helpless in the face of most of the problems I face. I can’t change my own heart, mold myself into Christ’s image, or keep all that scares me at bay.

While the news about who we are at our core is bad, the news about who God is couldn’t get any better.

And that’s not the worst of it. In Psalm 51, David described a personal attribute that I like to gloss over.

I am a sinner.

Paul answered the “I am . . .” question by describing himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Some days it feels like I’m giving him a run for his money.

When we line the reality of who we are with the beauty of who God is, our heart can choose from one of two options.

  1. We can wilt under the weight of our failings, and settle in with the feeling that we will never measure up.
  2. We can let the beauty of the gospel—that a God so big and powerful and good would extend grace and love toward us despite the fact that we are so desperately undeserving—make up for our slack. We can spend our days in gratitude instead of defeat because God is big, and we are small, and He loves us anyway.

From time to time it does us good to peel back the good stuff of who we are and smell the gunk underneath. But don’t dwell there. While the news about who we are at our core is bad, the news about who God is couldn’t get any better.

In light of what God’s done for you, how would you finish the sentence I am . . .? Leave us a comment below. I’ll choose one of you to win the Gospel Transformation ESV Study Bible.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read part one, “Who Are You, God?

 

Who Are You, God?



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

Take off your sandals (or boots as may be the case this cold, rainy spring). Imagine yourself on the holy ground Moses once found himself standing on.

We learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.

He had just heard the voice of God come from a burning bush. God called Moses to go to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh release God’s people from slavery. Moses wrestles with the idea of such a monumental task and finally asks, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13).

Before Moses goes to the most powerful man in the world, he wants to know the name of the God who sends him. Seems reasonable to me.

God answers Moses’ question this way, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

Then, He repeats Himself, but doesn’t offer Moses much clarity.

“And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you'” (Ex. 3:14).

There isn’t an English teacher in the world that wouldn’t mark all over that sentence with her red pen.

Imagine the same sentence in a different context. You are introduced to a new visitor at church. You say, “Hi, my name is Erin. What’s your name?”

“I am . . . ” is their reply.

I am who? I am what? Simply leaving it at “I am” seems like bad grammar and bad manners.

But that’s what God said when Moses asked His name.

“I AM WHO I AM.”
“I AM has sent me.”

Don’t you imagine that Moses was perched on the very edge of his seat? Waiting for more information. He knew he would be pressed by Pharaoh and by the people he was called to free for more information. I am who? I am what? But “I AM” seemed to be all the information God was going to give at that moment.

Fortunately for all of us, it’s not all He ever said on the subject.

Timothy Keller recently tweeted, “God doesn’t tell Moses, ‘Tell them, I am what you want.’ He says tell them, ‘I AM what I AM.”

That quote stuck with me for days. So much so that I decided to do some digging into this “I AM” business. When God says, “I AM” what does He mean? Why does He leave his identity so mysterious?

I decided to look in my Bible for every place where God says “I AM.” Before I show you what I found, I want to warn you that it’s a long and impressive list. If you’re like me, you have a tendency to gloss over information when it comes to you in bulk, but let me encourage you to take your time. Read and re-read. Think about all the things God says about himself with the simple introduction, “I AM.”

I AM . . . your shield (Gen. 15:1-3).
I AM . . . God Almighty (Gen. 17:1, 35:11).

I AM . . . compassionate (Ex. 22:27).
I AM . . . holy (Lev. 11:44).
I AM . . . your portion and your inheritance (Num. 18:20).

I AM . . . your salvation (Ps. 35:3).
I AM . . . with you (Isa. 41:10, 43:5, Jer. 1:19,15:20, Hag. 1:13, 2:4, Matt. 28:20).
I AM . . . the Lord, besides me there is no salvation (Isa. 43:11).

I AM . . . the first and the last (Isa. 44:6, Rev. 1:17).

I AM . . . he who comforts (Isa. 5:12).

I AM . . . merciful (Jer. 3:12).
I AM . . . a father (Jer. 31:9).

I AM . . . their inheritance (Ezek. 44:28).

I AM . . . gentle and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29).

I AM . . . the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Matt. 22:32).

I AM . . . the Christ (Mark 14:61-63).

I AM . . . the bread of life (John 6:48).
I AM . . . the light of the world (John 8:12).

I AM . . . not of this world (John 8:24).
I AM . . . the Good Shepherd (John 10:1).
I AM . . . the door (John 10:9).
I AM . . . the son of God (John 10:36).
I AM . . . the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
I AM . . . teacher and lord (John 13:13).
I AM . . . the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:1).
I AM . . . the true vine (John 15:1).
I AM . . . the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8).
I AM . . . alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18).
I AM . . . coming soon (Rev. 3:11).

I AM . . . the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16).

I AM . . . the LORD your God (this one is stated so many times throughout the Bible that I lost count).

I told you it was an impressive list. So why didn’t God just dictate it to Moses from that burning bush so that Moses could pass it along to Pharaoh? Why leave the dots unconnected?

Because we learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.

The answer to Moses’ question, “What is his name?” would be given to Pharaoh soon enough. The purpose of the plagues God sent upon Egypt was to put the power and character of God on full display.

Sooner or later, we all mumble Moses’ question under our breath, “Who are you, God?” We follow it up with “How will you prove who you are in my life?” We’ve got the benefit of a hard copy of His answer in the Word. From Genesis to Revelation the Lord speaks often of who He is. But the proof is also in the pudding, isn’t it? If you will take a minute to reflect on your own life you will see that His descriptions of Himself are spot on. I know He’s been everything on that list in my own life (compassionate, salvation, merciful . . . )

Who has He been in yours?

P.S. Who God is becomes even more powerful when we look at who we really are. Be sure to come back tomorrow for a follow up post on that.

Learn more about Jesus, the I AM, as Nancy teaches through the series, “The Wonder of His Name.”

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “Who Is Jesus to You?

 

Who Are You, God?



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

Take off your sandals (or boots as may be the case this cold, rainy spring). Imagine yourself on the holy ground Moses once found himself standing on.

We learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.

He had just heard the voice of God come from a burning bush. God called Moses to go to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh release God’s people from slavery. Moses wrestles with the idea of such a monumental task and finally asks, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13).

Before Moses goes to the most powerful man in the world, he wants to know the name of the God who sends him. Seems reasonable to me.

God answers Moses’ question this way, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

Then, He repeats Himself, but doesn’t offer Moses much clarity.

“And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you'” (Ex. 3:14).

There isn’t an English teacher in the world that wouldn’t mark all over that sentence with her red pen.

Imagine the same sentence in a different context. You are introduced to a new visitor at church. You say, “Hi, my name is Erin. What’s your name?”

“I am . . . ” is their reply.

I am who? I am what? Simply leaving it at “I am” seems like bad grammar and bad manners.

But that’s what God said when Moses asked His name.

“I AM WHO I AM.”
“I AM has sent me.”

Don’t you imagine that Moses was perched on the very edge of his seat? Waiting for more information. He knew he would be pressed by Pharaoh and by the people he was called to free for more information. I am who? I am what? But “I AM” seemed to be all the information God was going to give at that moment.

Fortunately for all of us, it’s not all He ever said on the subject.

Timothy Keller recently tweeted, “God doesn’t tell Moses, ‘Tell them, I am what you want.’ He says tell them, ‘I AM what I AM.”

That quote stuck with me for days. So much so that I decided to do some digging into this “I AM” business. When God says, “I AM” what does He mean? Why does He leave his identity so mysterious?

I decided to look in my Bible for every place where God says “I AM.” Before I show you what I found, I want to warn you that it’s a long and impressive list. If you’re like me, you have a tendency to gloss over information when it comes to you in bulk, but let me encourage you to take your time. Read and re-read. Think about all the things God says about himself with the simple introduction, “I AM.”

I AM . . . your shield (Gen. 15:1-3).
I AM . . . God Almighty (Gen. 17:1, 35:11).

I AM . . . compassionate (Ex. 22:27).
I AM . . . holy (Lev. 11:44).
I AM . . . your portion and your inheritance (Num. 18:20).

I AM . . . your salvation (Ps. 35:3).
I AM . . . with you (Isa. 41:10, 43:5, Jer. 1:19,15:20, Hag. 1:13, 2:4, Matt. 28:20).
I AM . . . the Lord, besides me there is no salvation (Isa. 43:11).

I AM . . . the first and the last (Isa. 44:6, Rev. 1:17).

I AM . . . he who comforts (Isa. 5:12).

I AM . . . merciful (Jer. 3:12).
I AM . . . a father (Jer. 31:9).

I AM . . . their inheritance (Ezek. 44:28).

I AM . . . gentle and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29).

I AM . . . the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Matt. 22:32).

I AM . . . the Christ (Mark 14:61-63).

I AM . . . the bread of life (John 6:48).
I AM . . . the light of the world (John 8:12).

I AM . . . not of this world (John 8:24).
I AM . . . the Good Shepherd (John 10:1).
I AM . . . the door (John 10:9).
I AM . . . the son of God (John 10:36).
I AM . . . the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
I AM . . . teacher and lord (John 13:13).
I AM . . . the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:1).
I AM . . . the true vine (John 15:1).
I AM . . . the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8).
I AM . . . alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18).
I AM . . . coming soon (Rev. 3:11).

I AM . . . the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16).

I AM . . . the LORD your God (this one is stated so many times throughout the Bible that I lost count).

I told you it was an impressive list. So why didn’t God just dictate it to Moses from that burning bush so that Moses could pass it along to Pharaoh? Why leave the dots unconnected?

Because we learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.

The answer to Moses’ question, “What is his name?” would be given to Pharaoh soon enough. The purpose of the plagues God sent upon Egypt was to put the power and character of God on full display.

Sooner or later, we all mumble Moses’ question under our breath, “Who are you, God?” We follow it up with “How will you prove who you are in my life?” We’ve got the benefit of a hard copy of His answer in the Word. From Genesis to Revelation the Lord speaks often of who He is. But the proof is also in the pudding, isn’t it? If you will take a minute to reflect on your own life you will see that His descriptions of Himself are spot on. I know He’s been everything on that list in my own life (compassionate, salvation, merciful . . . )

Who has He been in yours?

P.S. Who God is becomes even more powerful when we look at who we really are. Be sure to come back tomorrow for a follow up post on that.

Learn more about Jesus, the I AM, as Nancy teaches through the series, “The Wonder of His Name.”

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “Who Is Jesus to You?

 

Dear Room Moms Everywhere

Last month, I stumbled upon a raw nerve. My post, “Why I’m Not the Room Mom” ignited a response I did not anticipate. Some of you responded that you were encouraged by the post to draw healthy boundaries with your time and family. Hooray! That was my intention.

Some of you were offended. You thought I came across as self-righteous and condemning toward moms who made choices different than my own.

It is easy to find ourselves so busy with good things that we end up robbed of the energy and bandwidth to teach our children about the “one” thing, which is Jesus.

If you fall into that second camp, let me take a moment here to fall on my sword. I admit that my lines (not being a room mom, sending store bought Valentines etc.) may not be your lines. There is no biblical mandate to structure your time and commitments the same way I do.

Any scent of self-righteousness you may have picked up on was unintentional. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have this mom thing all figured out. But I know that we often judge ourselves on intentions while others judge us on actions. While I was hoping to use my choices, my inadequacies, my insecurities, and my struggles as an example to spur a bigger conversation about being moms with kingdom priorities, I can see that some of you thought I was talking about absolutes. For that, I’m sorry.

Also, I’m afraid I painted a caricature of myself that wasn’t entirely accurate. I actually love to cook and craft with my kids. I’m also grateful to those who volunteer as positive examples in their lives. I’d like to go on record as saying I am pro-crafts, pro-family time, pro-volunteering, and even pro-Pinterest. But those are some areas where I have needed to cut back in order to stay sane and focused as a mom.

With that being said, I’m glad this can of worms has been opened. As we keep the conversation going, here’s what’s on my heart.

Biblical families are counter-cultural.

God’s Word is a square peg in this round world. It will never fit with what the culture says is best for us or our families. There are so many options and activities available to us at any given point it’s easy to fill our family schedules to the point that they bulge at the seams. I have made many mistakes in this area. I have seen the corrosive effect that busyness has had on my own family and the families of other believers I know. Being too busy doing too many things, tends to eat away at the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. With that in mind, let me reiterate the big idea of my first post.

As moms, we can do it all, but we can’t do it all well.

It is easy to find ourselves so busy with good things that we end up robbed of the energy and bandwidth to teach our children about the “one” thing, which is Jesus. I know we can use plenty of these good things to teach our kids about Jesus, but we must reject the lie of our culture that says, “To be a good mom, you have to do it all.”

This is hard for me! I need to constantly evaluate and recalibrate. I am deeply challenged by Jesus’ words to Martha, a Type A, do-it-all girl like myself . . .

“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42).

Because living this way is counter-cultural . . .

Moms need each other.

If I’m being honest, going viral felt like a bad case of the flu. While some readers expressed concern in loving and constructive ways, many hit below the belt. Calling into question my own commitment to the Lord and devotion to my children.

I see this as just another skirmish in the “mommy wars.” Whether it’s fighting over breastfeeding or formula, organic or processed food, homeschooling or public schooling, we moms can be rough on each other. But when it comes to the mommy wars, I waved my white flag long ago. That’s because nobody wins at the comparison game, and this journey is so tough, I simply cannot do it alone.

If we are going to raise up the next generation to love Jesus, it will only be arm in arm, not head to head.

A story the Lord has used powerfully to challenge me as I mother is one found in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a trusted official under the Persian King Artaxerxes. He was also an Israelite who asked the king to let him gather his people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The king agreed, so people gathered and the building began. When the enemies of Israel pushed back against the project, pay close attention to how the Israelites defended themselves:

“‘Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’

When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.” (Neh. 4:13–15).

Because the Israelites were fighting for their families, they were brave enough to stare down their enemies. And because they were fighting with their families, they were strong enough to win.

What if, instead they spent their time comparing, surveying each other’s section of wall and either criticizing that they wouldn’t do it that way or feeling inadequate? The mission would be compromised. The victory would be lost.

If we are going to fight for our families in a culture that is willing to battle for our children’s hearts and fight with our families for God’s truth, we’ve got to stick together.

I’ll go first.

Dear room mom, non-room mom, crafty gal, hot mess, Martha Stewart, burns her dinner every time, homeschool mom, public school mom, private school mom, mom of many, mom of few, got-it-all-together mom, can’t-find-her-car-keys mom, scrapbook mom, doesn’t-own-a-camera mom, hippie mom, organized mom, disheveled mom, funny mom, serious mom, and every mom in between,

If you are living your life for Christ, committed to pointing your children toward Him and His truth, and willing to swim upstream to find His best for your family . . .

I stand and applaud you.

Your biggest fan,

Erin Davis (a mom especially thankful for God’s grace).

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “Why I’m Not the Room Mom.”

 

Craving God’s Best

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Our blood sugar has spiked from all of that chocolate and some of us never received what we were actually craving—someone else’s love.

I’d like to propose a radical change. Instead of labeling February 14th, Valentine’s Day next year, I think we should rebrand it “Craving Day.” The entire holiday is engineered to cause us to crave: chocolate, love, passion, romance, intimacy, and fancy, steak dinners eaten under candlelight.

We were made to crave love and that God is uniquely able to meet that need.

As a married women, if I’m not diligent, I can sift through a bowl of candy message hearts . . . “love you,” “kiss me,” “ask me,” “dear one” and find myself longing for a marriage that is as sugary sweet as the candy itself. For the single women in my world, the craving sometimes seems to be even more intense. The young women on True Woman’s sister blog, LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com, have told me that while they seek God’s will for their romantic lives and wait for His timing, they sometimes struggle to find purpose in the single years. If you find yourself floating in that boat, Craving Day may have you feeling like an afterthought.

With that in mind, I wanted to pass along these commitments from a great resource from Nancy titled, Singled Out For Him: Embracing the Blessings, and the Challenges of Singleness. They are worthy resolutions for women in all stations of life to consider as we seek to crave God’s best for us.

  1. I am committed to receiving my marital status as a gift from God.
  2. Contentment is a choice. True joy is not the result of having everything I want but of gratefully receiving exactly what God has given me.

    “Each one has his own gift from God, one in this matter and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7).

    The Scripture teaches that both marriage and singleness, like children, are gifts from God. To some, He gives the gift of marriage; to others, He gives the gift of singleness. Either way, we are to receive our marital status as a gift. This gift does not come from some distant relative who has no idea what we really need; it comes from a gracious God who loves us and gives the very best gifts to any of His children who leave the choice with Him.


  3. I am committed to serving Christ with all my time, abilities, and energy.
  4. “But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. . . . And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction” (1 Cor. 7:32–35).

    If you are single, this is not a time in limbo, waiting for the right partner to come along so we can get on with our lives. Those years of singleness provide an incredible and unique opportunity to be devoted to Christ and His kingdom in a way that married men and women simply do not have the freedom to pursue.


  5. I am committed to relinquishing all my expectations of material, physical, and emotional security.
  6. “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna . . . to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3).

    All of us long for security and a certain level of creature comforts. Sometimes God is pleased to provide far more than we actually need. But sometimes He allows us to “do without”—to experience unfulfilled longings—so that we might come to recognize our need for Him. The sin is not in having the longings but in demanding that our longings be met here and now. Not until we are united with the Lord Jesus in heaven will all our longings be fulfilled and all the empty spaces of our hearts be filled.


  7. I am committed to developing personal discipline.

    “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).

    Not only is physical discipline important, but spiritual discipline is vital. Godliness, spiritual maturity, and intimacy with God do not just “happen.” They are the fruit of conscious, disciplined choices and habits. Paul told Timothy to “exercise yourself toward godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). Spiritual disciplines such as worship, praise, Bible study, prayer, Scripture memorization, and fasting can help develop a vital, rich relationship with God, resulting in godly character and a fruitful life.


  8. I am committed to being morally pure.
  9. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

    Lack of moral discipline is one of the greatest disqualifiers of those who run the Christian race. On the other hand, a commitment to moral purity is essential to experiencing the fullness of blessing that God intends for us. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). The apostle Paul makes it clear that the will of God for every believer is that we be morally pure, that we abstain from every form of immorality (1 Thess. 4:3).

Married or single, if we let it, Craving Day can serve as an annual reminder that we were made to crave love and that God is uniquely able to meet that need. God is love, in fact. He is loving to the core. You are loved by Christ and empowered by Him to live out these commitments.

Has Valentine’s Day caused you to crave more in the area of romance? How has God used these commitments to recalibrate your heart?
Leave me a comment below with your thoughts. I’ll choose three of you to win a free copy of Nancy’s resource, Singled Out For Him: Embracing the Blessings, and the Challenges of Singleness.

P.S. For five more commitments from this resource, hop on over to LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com and check out my follow-up post.

If you enjoyed this post, you may wish to read “Unfulfilled Longings.”

Why I’m Not the Room Mom

I send store-bought valentines to my son’s school.

There. I said it.

I don’t stencil names onto fancy pieces of cardboard. I don’t hot glue the perfect candy heart message onto cardstock. I don’t bake heart-shaped cookies from scratch. I don’t help my boy cut and glitter his own valentines out of red and pink construction paper. We buy a box of valentines and stick them in the envelopes. Last year, we left the envelopes blank because we ran out of time to print the other kids’ names on them.

The primary goal of our marriages, our homes, and our families should not be to impress the watching world. It is to honor God.

It’s not that I’m a slacker mom, exactly. It’s just that the Lord reminds me often about what does and does not really matter as I mother. Essentially, anything I can find on Pinterest falls into the “doesn’t matter much” category. Anything that requires the work of my heart and the selfless service of my hands tends to hang out in the “matters a great deal” side of the ledger.

It’s the precise reason I’m not the room mom for my son’s school. It’s why I don’t volunteer to be an assistant basketball, cheerleading, soccer . . . coach. It’s why birthday parties around here consist of a favorite meal and a boxed cake.

Don’t get me wrong. I actually love to craft and bake and volunteer. It would tickle my heart pink to throw fantastic themed parties, earn a few bragging rights with other parents by sending something creative with my child to school, or to catch some more quality time with my boys by coaching something they’re interested in, but I’ve had to come face to face with a foundational truth about motherhood:

I can do it all, but I can’t do it all well.

I often have to rehearse these words in the mirror . . .

“No.”

“No, thank you.”

“No. I’m sorry. My schedule is full.”

Can I be honest? Sometimes I’m embarrassed by these lines I’ve drawn in the sand. For example, last week, my son Eli was supposed to bring something that started with the letter “P” to preschool. I threw a piggy bank in his backpack as we rushed out the door. Another mom came to school bringing pizza for everyone. When I found out I had a moment of panic, wishing I was able to drop everything to deliver pizza to a class of hungry and excited preschoolers.

But then I am reminded . . .

Motherhood is not a spectator sport.

Neither is any other side of womanhood. The primary goal of our marriages, our homes, and our families should not be to impress the watching world. The goal should be to honor God.

In a world of Facebook likes and Twitter retweets, it is so hard to remember the wisdom found in Colossians 3:17.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

God is more honored by children growing in righteousness than 1,000 homemade valentines. God is more honored by a marriage focused on His glory than any touched-up family photos we put on Facebook. God is more honored by a woman who makes wise choices with her time than by a momma stretched so thin she has no time to seek Him.

So bring on the store-bought valentines and the boxed cakes. Join me in asking the Lord to shift your focus away from the expectations of others and toward a family obsessed with His glory.

Jesus, help us to be women who live our lives for you. Deliver us from the temptation to measure our worth by what others think. Teach us to build families that point others toward your gospel.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “When God Rewrites Your Job Description.”

 

It’s Not About Me

I’ve got a secret that can keep rivers of tears from being shed in 2014. It can stop angry outbursts in their tracks. It can put an end to stewing, sniveling, and navel-gazing. It is a secret that can insulate you from so much in the year ahead.

Are you ready for it?

It’s not about you.

The purpose of my life (and yours!) is not personal comfort or happiness.

I know you were probably hoping for something that sounded more like a Hallmark card. I feel the same way. I love ideas that give me warm fuzzies, but most of the time the stuff that makes me feel good simply strokes my ever-craving ego. I may crave applause, but the Truth is, a life lived like I’m the center of the universe ultimately misses God’s mark. I’ve been a Christian long enough to learn that my focus should not be on myself, but I need daily, hourly, minute-by-minute reminders that I am not the axis upon which all things rotate. The world wasn’t designed to revolve around me.

The purpose of my life (and yours!) is not personal comfort or happiness. Our actions should not be motivated by the applause of others. We were not created to steal the limelight for ourselves.

God’s Word provides bedrock truth we can come back to over and over when seeking to define our purpose.

As one of billions of people on one planet in one solar system in one of many galaxies, we naturally search for significance. Self-help books tell us to find the answer within ourselves, but those books miss something huge. The current culture tells us we matter if we get “likes,” “followers,” and “re-tweets,” but ultimately that’s a leaky well, too.

God’s Word provides bedrock truth we can come back to over and over when seeking to define our purpose.

Isaiah 43:7 describes the people of God and says, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Read that passage backward. You were made and formed by God. Why? For His glory.

This point was powerfully hit home for me several years ago as I studied Revelation 4:2-11. (It’s a long passage, but don’t race through it! It’s worth the time investment).

“At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal . . .

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.’

Only God is worthy to receive glory, and honor, and power. He created all things, after all. By His will all things exist.

As I peek into the throne room in this passage these questions bubble up in my heart:
Erin, where are you discussed in this passage?

  • Where is your throne?
  • Where is your crown?
  • Who is worshiping you?

I’m not even in the throne room! I’m not the center of attention. Yes, I am an adopted daughter of the king, but God is the one who is really on the throne.

When I forget this truth, anything that threatens my personal happiness will cause me to bristle. Why? Because so often “self” becomes my idol. I want to be served and over and over again I claw my way onto the throne only God is fit to sit on. Because of this, my cravings for attention, if left unchecked, simply leave me feeling undervalued, unappreciated, and taken for granted. That’s when the tears flow. Or the angry outbursts start. Or the jealousy takes root. Or I start comparing myself to others endlessly. I take everything personally. I fret. I snap. I whine.

The secret to feeling better about myself is to get over myself.

God has a way of turning things upside down. The secret to feeling better about myself is to get over myself. It’s a quality the Bible defines as humility.

I’ve often heard it said that humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but rather thinking of ourselves less. That sounds like a worthy New Year’s resolution to me! But let’s face it, true humility is impossible in our own strength. We need Jesus, who modeled consistent, radical humility and then called us to it to equip us to turn our thoughts toward Him and others. Ultimately, the fact that life is not all about me is very good news. It frees me to fix my eyes on the One through whom all things were made.

Jesus, turn our eyes and hearts toward you this year. Teach us true humility. Help us to live in a way that points others toward you. Amen.

Five More Truths To Set You Free in 2014


Yesterday
, I challenged you to resolve to put God’s Truth into action in 2014. I gave you five action steps based on the Truths Nancy writes about in Lies Women Believe.

Here are five more ways you can live out God’s Truth in 2014.

  1. I will wave the white flag (Isa. 46:10).
  2. At True Woman conferences, the goodie bag handed out to all attendees always includes a white hankie. That handkerchief is intended to symbolize surrender to God’s will and plans for our lives. One of the highlights for me at each conference is watching those hankies wave all over the auditorium. Without speaking, each woman who waves one is screaming, “I know God’s will for me is good! I choose to surrender to it.”

    Nothing can touch our lives that has not first been “filtered through His fingers of love.”

    At the dawn of a new year, it may be easy for some of us to express that very sentiment. But challenges will come, and that is when the rubber will really meet the road about our feelings toward God’s will.

    We may find ourselves wondering, Is this a mistake, God? Surely this is not what you have planned for my life.

    When those moments come in the year ahead, we have the choice to wave a white flag (figuratively or literally), knowing that our lives are in God’s hand, and nothing can touch our lives that has not first been “filtered through His fingers of love.”

    “He makes no mistakes with His children’s lives. Someone has said, ‘God’s will is exactly what we would choose, if we knew what God knows.’ When we stand in eternity looking back on this earthly existence, we will know by sight what we can only see now by faith: He has done all things well” (Lies Women Believe).

  3. I will talk about grace often this year (2 Cor. 12:9).
  4. The Bible says that God’s grace is sufficient for us.

    When you come to a bend in the road in 2014, God’s grace will already be there waiting. He has ample grace for all that you are facing. He has copious amounts of grace for whatever is ahead. When you’re out of options, He has grace galore.

    “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. When I am weak, He is strong. When I am empty, He is full. When I have no resources of my own left, His resources have not begun to be depleted. . . . We need to speak the Truth to ourselves; we need to speak it to each other. In every season, in every circumstance, His grace is sufficient. It is sufficient for me; it is sufficient for you” (Lies Women Believe).

    All of us need to be reminded that God’s grace is enough to carry us through. Why not name this the year of grace! Take every opportunity to talk about God’s grace to yourself and to others.

  5. I will reject sin because of the cross (1 John 1:7, Rom. 6:6–7).
  6. Are there sins in your life that have become habitual? Are there areas where you are operating under the false belief that you will never have victory over your sin? Do you secretly doubt that Christ’s blood is enough to cover a secret or addictive sin?

    There is no sin you have committed and no sin you will commit that cannot be forgiven and covered by Jesus’ sacrifice.

    Jesus offers forgiveness of sins willingly. The realization of this should motivate us to be intolerant toward sin in our own lives.

    “This [Christ’s sacrifice] should not cause us to take sin more lightly; to the contrary, the realization that our sin required the lifeblood of the Lord Jesus should leave us broken and humble in spirit, and determined to choose the pathway of obedience, by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit” (Lies Women Believe).

    Make this your mantra: “The Truth is, I don’t have to sin (Rom. 6:14).

  7. I will see my past as redeemable (1 Cor. 6:9–11).
  8. There is nothing in your past that God cannot use.

    There is nothing you’ve experienced that makes you damaged goods.

    Your past does not have to plague you.

    “The Truth is that our past—our upbringing, the ways we have been wronged, and the ways we have wronged others—these things do not have to be hindrances. In fact, by God’s grace, they can actually become stepping-stones to greater victory and fruitfulness” (Lies Women Believe).

    What burdens have you brought into this New Year? You are free to drop them at God’s feet, trusting that He will work them for your good (Rom. 8:28).

  9. I will run to God’s Word as a first resort and point others toward it instead of offering my advice (Ps. 19:7, 107:20, 119:105).
  10. “The Truth is, the Word of God is alive and powerful; it is medicine for troubled hearts and peace for plagued minds. It is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Whatever our need, whatever our circumstances, the Word of God is sufficient to meet that need. And it is sufficient to meet the needs of those we love.

    People around us who are hurting and needy don’t need to hear our opinions and suggestions. They need to know what God says. They need to know His commands, His promises, and His ways. If we really want to help people, we must point them to the Truth and prayerfully and lovingly show them how to apply the Truth in their situation” (Lies Women Believe).

Which of these action steps do you most need to take in the new year? Select one of the “I will” statements from above and tweet it to be entered to win a copy of Lies Women Believe. We’ll choose three winners. And don’t forget to leave me a comment below, because I’d love to hear from you.

Ready? Set. Choose Truth!

Enter our rafflecopter giveaway to win a free copy of Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

(This giveaway is continued from yesterday.)

P.S. Check out the Lies Young Women Believe Blog for more Truths to set you free!

Five Truths to Set You Free in 2014

What is it about a new year that makes us all want to call for a massive “do over”? We collectively vow to shed a few pounds, save a few pennies, and ditch the nasty habits that plagued us the year before.

Resolve to put God’s Truth into action.

But year after year most of us fail to hit the marks we set for ourselves. According to one university study, only 8% of people are actually successful at achieving their resolution.

Despite our best intentions, why do we so often fail at reshaping who we are?

Maybe it’s because we’re so focused on self-improvement that we miss the transformation that only comes from God’s Word.

In John 8:31–33 Jesus wrote about it this way, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”

The root of most of our resolutions is the desire for freedom. We want freedom from the things that stress us out, freak us out, or make us feel less than. Jesus says that the key that unlocks the door to freedom is the Truth, not another fifteen minutes on the treadmill or another trip to the container store.

So this year let me encourage you to resolve to put God’s Truth into action. I’ll even get you started. In Lies Women Believe Nancy wrote about twenty-two life-changing Truths rooted in God’s Word. I’ll turn those Truths into action steps over the next few days. Before we dig in, let me pass along some advice Nancy gave in the book,

“Rather than skimming through [these posts], let me encourage you to take time to savor these liberating, life-changing Truths. Say each Truth aloud—again and again and again—until your thinking becomes aligned with God’s way of thinking. You may even want to memorize the list, along with the key Scriptures that correspond to each Truth.”

Now that’s a plan we can stick to! Ready? Let’s choose Truth together.

  1. I will believe that God is good (Ps. 119:68, 136:1).
  2. The Bible promises that God is good. Whether or not it feels like it in the moment, God is good. He has good things in store for those who love Him.

    “The Truth is, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of what we feel, regardless of what we think, God is good, and everything He does is good” (Lies Women Believe).

    How would it change things for you if you resolved to hold on to the Truth that God is good in 2014?

  3. I will be confident because of God’s love (Rom. 8:32, 38-39).
  4. Most of our typical New Year’s resolutions can be traced back to insecurity. We want to be set free from the things that make us feel less than. We-want to be thinner, more organized, or have more money in the bank in order to feed our ever-craving egos. But we do not have to seek love and acceptance from others. God declares His deep, enduring, and everlasting love for each of us in His Word.

    The reality of God’s love can free us from the need to look for love and acceptance elsewhere.

    “Because God is good and loves us perfectly, we can be confident that He longs for us to experience all the joy in life He designed us to know. He knows we will only find this true and lasting joy and fulfillment in Him. He loves us so much, He insists that we come to Him, where alone we can be fully satisfied” (Lies Women Believe).

  5. I will stop trying to earn God’s acceptance (Eph. 1:4–6).
  6. God does not accept you because you have quiet times every morning, volunteer often in your church, or avoid certain types of sins. This year, you can worship and serve God out of an overflow of gratitude for His acceptance in Christ instead of as an attempt to earn His favor.

    “We don’t have to jump through all kinds of spiritual ‘hoops.’ In fact, there is not one thing we can do to make ourselves acceptable to a holy God. Yet we—fallen, condemned, unworthy sinners—can stand before God clean and unashamed, accepted in His sight. How? Because Jesus—the pure, sinless Son of God—is acceptable to Him, and we stand in Him” (Lies Women Believe).

    Make a list of the things you do as a part of your Christian walk. Ask the Lord to reveal if there is anything on that list you are doing as an attempt to earn His favor and acceptance. Then ask Him to help you recalibrate with the knowledge that you are already accepted.

  7. I will stop looking to _________________ to satisfy my needs (Ps. 23:1).
    • Money
    • Relationships
    • Marriage
    • Children
    • iStuff
    • Work
    • Friendships
    • Volunteering
  8. These are just a few of the things that I tend to look to to meet my deepest needs to feel safe, valued, and worthy. But only God can truly meet those needs. When I look to anything else to satisfy, I find my longings unfulfilled.

    “The Truth is, if we have Him, we have everything we need for our present peace and happiness” (Lies Women Believe).

    What did you look to for satisfaction in 2013? Resolve to shift your eyes to Christ to meet those needs in the year ahead.

  9. I will learn and believe God’s promises (Isa. 28:16).

God can be trusted.

That’s a statement that most of us know we should agree with, but the way we live our lives indicates that we’re not sure He will keep His promises to us.

Make it a point to study all that God promises you in His Word. Find ways to memorize His promises (notecards, write them on your bathroom mirror, download a Scripture memorization app so that you can move from head knowledge about His Word to believing what He says with all of your heart.

“God keeps His promises. He has promised never to leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He has promised that those who trust in Him will ultimately be satisfied. From time to time, I have to remind myself: ‘God has never once let me down—and He’s not going to start now!'” (Lies Women Believe).

We’ll focus on five more action steps rooted in God’s Truth tomorrow. Until then, I’d love to hear from you. Which of the action steps from the list above do you most need to put into practice? Where do you need freedom in the year ahead?

Select one of the “I will” statements from above and tweet it to be entered to win a copy of Lies Women Believe. We’ll choose three winners. And don’t forget to comment below, because I’d love to hear from you.

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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 LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

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 LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com 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 LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com 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 Truewoman.com has a little sister blog at LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com? 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.”

Gulp!

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 …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Bingo!

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?