Snapshots of Persecution Happening Right Now

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

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

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

The Deadliest Place To Be a Christian

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

Here are some fast facts:

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

An American Pastor Imprisoned In Iran

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Cheerleaders Fight To Show Their Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Loose Lips Sink Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I Submit To My Boyfriend?

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

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

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

Your boyfriend is not your husband.

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

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

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

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

God has given you arenas to learn submission.

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

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

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

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

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

Remember what submission is all about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Soldier's Wife Redefines Marriage

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm Sending You On A Scavenger Hunt

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

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

So … here’s what you do.

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

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

Go ahead, and start digging!

The Ministry of Pancakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Peter, do you love me?”

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

“Feed my sheep.”

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know how it goes!

My Very Favorite Buttermilk Pancake Recipe

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

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

Have Mercy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your husband.”

Come again, Lord?

“You are not merciful to your husband.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets think it through for a moment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should You Play Sports?

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

Check it out:

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

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

Why does that matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's The Big Stink About Submission?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet God’s Word says this:

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

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

What is submission exactly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Moms Everywhere . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sticks And Stones And Broken Hearts



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

Here are a few questions to consider in your comments.

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

A Radical Way To Pray For Mother's Day

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

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

What do those numbers mean?

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

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

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

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

Check out what God says about children in Psalm 127:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But …

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

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

Honor—No Ifs, Ands, Or Buts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try …

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

Be a Peacemaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look For a Spiritual Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Mistake Your Tongue May Be Making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

‘Fraid so. 

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

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

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

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

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

They said …

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

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

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

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

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


Praying for More Than ‘Safe’

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

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

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

This is how Jesus taught us to pray:

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 6:12 offers this perspective:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Timely Reminder for Tax Day

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

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

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

1. God is my provider.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. I am called to ridiculous giving.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Dependence is a Good Thing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Words Of A Groom On His Wedding Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't Hit The Snooze On This

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

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

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

I want to be more like Emma.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wise Checklist

Some of you are feeling foolish.

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

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

A wise girl …

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

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

A Foolish Checklist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action step #2: Love homosexuals well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding the “Same-Sex Marriage” Debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Happening In The Supreme Court?

Recently the Supreme Court started hearings on two landmark cases:

Case #1: United States versus Windsor

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

Case #2: Hollingsworth versus Perry

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

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

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

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

What Does God’s Word Say?

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

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

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

Here are several verses to get you started:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A foolish woman…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's The Big Deal About Sunday?

3 crosses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a little perspective on that reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth is like that.

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

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

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

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

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

Which makes me wonder … are you mining for truth?

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

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

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

Proverbs 2 gives us this bold promise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing Your Manna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wonder if you need the same reminder?

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

Who's Having The Best Sex?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is “Born-Again Virginity” Possible?

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

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

It’s a question worth exploring.

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

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

Here’s how.

1. Acknowledge your sin.

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

2. Confess it.

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

3. Accept Christ’s forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that deserves a television special …

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

Got the Grumpies?

Have you ever noticed that grumpiness cuts deep ruts? A grumpy day or two and before you know it, your go-to mood—and the routine mood of your family—is grumpy.

A while ago I noticed that I had a few Grumpy Gus’ living in my house. First, there’s my four-year-old Eli who doesn’t seem to have a right side of the bed. He wakes up cranky and pouty most mornings.

Then there’s his toddler brother, Noble. I know they aren’t called Terrible Twos for nothing, but is it too much to ask that those fits are served with a smile?

My husband has an incredibly even temperament. I can’t say he’s been grumpy per se, but I don’t see a lot of smiles on his face, and frankly, I don’t hear his robust laugh often enough.

Oh, and then there’s the ringleader of the grumpies . . . me. The winter always puts me in a funk and lately I’ve been irritable, short tempered, cantankerous, and well . . . grumpy.

I happen to know that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:21–23). When we are light on these virtues and heavy on their opposites, clearly God has work to do in our hearts. With that in mind, I opened the Word and did a topical study on “joy.” The way I figure it, joy is the best vaccine against the grumpiness that seemed to be spreading in our home.

Early in my studies, I found this little gem:

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. (Ps. 4:7)

That verse leapt off the page at me as the way to get out of the grumpy rut and cut a new, more joyful path. So, I’ve started praying this prayer for each member of my family every morning:

“Lord, put more joy in our hearts than others have when their grain and wine abound.”

It’s a simple prayer and a simple request. But since Galatians 5 makes it clear that joy is the fruit of God’s Spirit at work, and since our grumpiness is a side effect of our own sinful nature, I need to depend on God to give us more joy.

It’s not the same as slapping a smile on our faces. It doesn’t necessarily mean a change in circumstances. Notice that the Psalmist doesn’t ask God to change his circumstances so that he is the one with wine and crops in abundance. Instead, He simply asks for God-given joy that exceeds the temporary happiness others might have as a result of a moment of prosperity.

Has it worked? Yes, it has. I’ve noticed a change in the climate of our home. There is, overall, a lot less unnecessary grumpiness and a lot more smiles, laughs, kind words, and happy days. Spring isn’t here yet. Our circumstances haven’t changed, but God is answering my request to put more joy in our hearts.

Has grumpiness cut deep ruts in your house? With your family? At your workplace?

Might I suggest you pray a prayer that is making a difference for us? Will you join me in praying Psalm 4:7 often and making 2013 a year where joy flows like wine?

“Jesus, please make this a year when you put more joy in our hearts than others have when their grain and wine abound. Amen.”

Bachelor Buzz: Is Virginity “Ridiculous”?

The Bachelor, Sean LoweTonight is the season finale of The Bachelor. Millions of viewers are expected to tune in to find out if the bachelor will drop down on one knee to propose to the one girl who survived another season of high drama, elaborate dates, and rose ceremonies.

I’ll admit it; I’ve been sucked into a season or two of The Bachelor myself. The promise of lasting love unfolding in front of our very eyes does make for interesting television. But there are pitfalls, which is why I’ve avoided writing about The Bachelor in the past. There’s plenty of junk associated with this show, and I’d never want to pique your curiosity about it and get you tuning in or Googling. So don’t do that. Promise?

But this year’s show has a twist. Bachelor, Sean Lowe, has declared himself a "born-again virgin." He’s been very vocal about his commitment to save sex until after his wedding. Blogs were buzzing when he chose girls to take to the "fantasy suite" while vowing that the focus would be on conversation not physical connection.

In a show that is constantly looking for the next way to create buzz and hook viewers, it seems this year that virginity is the subject designed to get people talking.

One blogger put it this way,

Sigh. Sean Lowe. You gotta love him. He’s so down-to-earth and sweet. He’s hot. Like really hot. And he seems like such a fiercely loyal, romantic, gentlemanly dude. He’s perfect as The Bachelor.

But then there’s the whole "born-again virgin" thing, which is pretty much a major buzz kill any way you look at it. Sure, the whole concept of saving yourself for marriage is kind of admirable in a really old-fashioned way, but come on. How can you vow to spend the rest of your life with someone without taking them for a test drive first?

She went on to say that failing to find out if he was sexually compatible with the girl of his dreams might lead the bachelor to a marriage that is doomed before it starts.

Her words remind me of something I’d rather forget. Mainly that the culture sees God’s standards for sex and marriage as ridiculous. It’s easy to shake my head or point fingers or simply ignore what’s happening in the culture. But the reality is, the media’s messages have a way of trickling into our own hearts and minds if we aren’t careful.

So squeeze the hype through the filter of God’s Word.

Hebrews 13:4 says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous" (emphasis added).

This is just one example of where the Bible makes it clear that sex is a gift that God intends to be opened and shared between a husband and a wife. But there’s more.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the ways of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on this law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers (Ps. 1:1–3, emphasis added).

What comes when we walk away from the ways of the world? We’re blessed. What happens when study God’s Word and find our delight in it? We become firmly planted, deeply rooted, shored up, and prosperous.

Put these two passages together, and we get this formula.

God asks me to save sex for marriage – the culture’s view that virginity is ridiculous = what’s best for me and my future.

The culture can call it ridiculous, out of date, or unreachable. But God’s Word writes a different story. Saving sex for marriage is what’s best for you. Waiting may not help you win a reality TV show or wow critics, but God’s Word promises that sticking to His plan even when others scoff will help you prosper.

You don’t have to be the star of a reality TV show for this to be an important lesson. Even when no cameras are watching, it can be easy to fall for the logic that purity is ridiculous, impossible, or out of date. Or that God’s standards make you miss out. But none of that is true. The bottom line is that God asks us to wait because He has our best in mind. It’s an important reminder for all of us in a culture that can be clueless.

Have you noticed examples where the culture calls God’s standards ridiculous? When that happens, how do you stand for truth?

PS: Be sure to hop back on the blog tomorrow where we’ll tackle if "born-again" virginity is possible.

A Place For All Those Tears

In Luke 8:51–52 Jesus approaches a crowd mourning the death of a twelve-year-old girl. His words to them may seem strange considering that they had good woman cryingreason to be upset.

But He said, "Stop crying" (v. 52).

In Luke 7:13 He says the exact same words to a momma whose only son had died. She sure had reason to cry. Her situation was exceptionally hopeless. And yet …

"He said, ‘Don’t cry.’"

When we tell someone not to cry, it’s usually because we are uncomfortable with their emotions or because we think they’re overreacting. But when Jesus told people not to cry, it was because He had a plan to do something about their pain. He had the power to dry up their tears.

The crowd who was mourning the death of the young girl? Just a few minutes later they received the amazing news that Jesus had raised her back to life. The widow who was burying her only son? She saw Jesus raise him from the dead with her very own eyes.

In both cases Jesus said "don’t cry" because He was about to take the pain away.

But I bet there are things you’ve had to bury that Jesus has not raised back to life. I am sure there are situations that make you cry where it seems like Jesus has not intervened. It may feel like there’s no reason to stop crying over the things that cause you pain.

I get that. I do.

I’ve got junk in my own life that makes me cry. There are times when I cannot hold back the tears. When that happens, I tend to wonder where my miracle is. Does Jesus even see my tears?

It was in that state recently that I stumbled across this verse.

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book? (Ps. 56:8).

Where is God when my tears start to flow? He’s keeping a tally of what makes me toss and turn. He’s collecting my tears in a bottle. He is recording them in a book.

In other words … He sees me. The things that keep me up at night don’t fly under His radar. He keeps a record of the junk that causes me pain.

And just what will He do with those tallies? What’s His plan for a bottle full of tears with my name on it? What’s the use of a book full of tears?

Revelation 21:4 gives the answer.

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.

I believe He is collecting my tears in a bottle because one day He will pour the bottle out and refill it with joy. He may not say "don’t cry" to me every time I am sad now, but a day is coming when He will, because He does have a plan to set all things right. It’s a promise that we can hold on tightly to whenever the tears start to flow.

What makes you cry these days?
What kind of tears is your bottle full of? Angry tears? Disappointed tears? Wounded tears? Shameful tears? Worried tears?

God sees them all. In fact, He keeps them in His collection, because one day He will look you in the eye and say, "Don’t cry." And when He does it will mean He’s dried up your tears—for good.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Ps. 126:5).

Walking With The Wise

friendsHas anyone ever said something like this to you . . .

"Birds of a feather flock together."

"If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?"

Since we aren’t birds and our friends are unlikely to go cliff jumping, the message of these phrases can get a little lost in translation. Perhaps a few words from a juvenile court judge can clear the matter up.

Recently, an email from a former juvenile court judge found its way into my inbox. The focus of his email was prayer, but a few sentences he wrote at the beginning got me thinking about Y-O-U.

As a juvenile court judge, I often told young people who entered my court, "Show me who you are hanging around with, and I will show you what you are going to become like."

Scripture puts it this way: "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm" (Prov. 13:20).

You don’t have to enter a juvenile court room for these words to have meaning. The judge and the writer of Proverbs are preaching a simple message that all of us would be wise to remember.

1. When you spend your time with wise people, you will become wiser yourself.
2. When you spend your time with unwise people, you are guaranteed to get hurt.

I’m sure the judge could tell lots of stories of young criminals whose feet were set on the wrong path simply by choosing the wrong friends. I can tell you plenty of stories from my own life of times I got burned because I let myself be a "companion of fools." I bet you have some of those stories too.

Certainly, we should be friendly to non-Christians and are free to spend some time with people that might fall into the category of being "unwise." But our closest friends—the people we spend the most time with—should be wise. That means they should fear God—the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). And they should know and seek to live out the wisdom found in God’s Word. We should notice that when we’re around them, we become wiser ourselves.

So let me join the judge in asking you, do you have wise friends? If so, you get a gold star. Even more importantly, you get the promise that those friends will help you grow in your own walk with Christ. On the flipside, are you closest friends non-Christians? Or maybe they’re Christians who consistently make unwise choices or disregard the wisdom found in God’s Word. Be warned! Those girls are likely to cause you harm or to encourage you to do harm to yourself. (Ah . . . that’s what all that bridge jumping talk is about!)

The choice is simple, but not always easy. Choose wise friends, and gain wisdom. Choose unwise friends, and gain trouble and pain. So go on, and take the judge’s advice. Show us who you are hanging around with. Your answer will inevitably show us where you’re destined to end up.

New Labels

What does your label say?

No, I’m not talking about the tag in the back of your shirt. (Why do those need to be made out of such itchy fabric anyway?)
woman with labels

I’m talking about the invisible labels that no one else can see, but you can. I’m talking about the kind of labels you wish you could rip right off.

I would define those labels this way:

When people look at me, all they see is ___________________.

However you’d fill in that blank, that’s your label. Maybe your labels have to do with the physical. You think that when people look at you all they see is your height, or weight, or skin, or hair. These labels are usually tied to whatever it is about us that makes us feel the most insecure. The truth is, other people don’t focus on our appearance near as much as we think they do, but that doesn’t keep us from wearing invisible labels.

There are other labels we often wear. Labels tied to our mistakes, or our circumstances, or who we used to be. Sometimes our labels look good, almost like designer labels, but they still make us feel yucky. Maybe when people look at you, you think all they see is that you’re a straight A student, or star athlete, or good girl. Those things aren’t bad, but no one wants to be defined by them.

Some of us wear so many labels, it’s like we own our very own invisible label maker. Every time someone sizes us up, we slap a new label on and wear it around.

There’s a story in the Bible about a girl who knew a thing or two about labels. You can read the whole thing in John 8:2–11, but I will give you the Wikipedia version. A woman was caught committing adultery. That means she was romantically linked to a man who was not her husband. Back in the day, that meant that she could be stoned—as in pummeled with rocks—by peers who were angered by her sin. She must have felt doomed as she was dragged into the temple courts by an angry mob with rocks in their hands. But Jesus intervened.

John 8:6–11 says:

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

When the crowd looked at this woman, all they saw was her sin. If we could see her invisible labels, we’d read:


But Jesus ripped those labels right off. He offered her new ones. In fact, the Bible doesn’t elaborate on what Jesus was writing when He was drawing in the sand, but I like to think that He was giving the woman new labels. Labels like:


Jesus is in the business of replacing labels. Those invisible labels that cause you pain? He can rip them off, just like He did for the adulterous woman. He doesn’t stop there. He can replace them with labels based on His steadfast love for you, His willingness to freely forgive you, His desire to use you to do things for His kingdom . . .

I guess you can keep wearing those invisible labels if you want to. You may have worn them so long that you wonder who you’d be without them. But Jesus offers you the same choice He offered the adulterous woman. You can keep wearing the labels, hung up on what you think others see when they look at you, or you can choose to hold your head high and walk toward a new life based on who God says you are.

What are your labels? When people look at you, what do you think they see? Do you want to keep wearing those around? Or will you rip them off and let God replace them with the beauty and value He sees when He looks at you?

Ready. Set. Rip!

Choose Your Own Adventure

Thanks for taking our people pleaser quiz yesterday. There were no right or wrong answers, but I did want to get you thinking about whether or not people pleasing is your standard operating procedure.

What is people pleasing exactly? It’s making choices based on either:
   a) impressing other people.
   b) avoiding disappointing other people.

Many of you fessed up that you are people pleasers, and you know it.

Ready for my true confession? I’m a people pleaser too.

In fact, this is one area where God has been consistently working in my heart for many months. I can sense that He wants me to make my choices based less on what others will think of me and more on what He desires from me. If you’re a people pleaser, you already know that this is easier said than done.

In my efforts to consider pleasing others less and pleasing God more, one verse has been a life raft.

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

This simple passage contrasts two simple realities.

When we live our lives in fear of man (that’s another way of describing chronic people pleasing), it’s like walking into a trap. The questions in yesterday’s quiz were examples of how we can find ourselves snagged.

Scenario #1: You have a HUGE assignment due tomorrow. Your best friend calls and begs you to go to the basketball game with her . . .

A people pleaser would go to the game and either blow off the assignment or have to stay up all night to complete it. The trap here is that we tend to do things with less excellence and stretch ourselves too thin because of our desire to impress others. The result can be exhaustion, burnout, or failure to meet our commitments—none of which tee us up for a life that is focused on the priorities God has for us.

Scenario #2: Your schedule is already full, and your pastor approaches you and asks you to volunteer once a week in the church nursery. You are not particularly passionate about children, and you are already involved in several ministries that do match your gifts . . .

The trap here is that when we approach ministry and service with pleasing people in mind, we can end up serving in ways God does not call us to and miss opportunities to serve in the ways and places God has in mind. A God-sized mission bears much more fruit than doing something good for the eyes of other people.

Scenarios #3 and #4: Questions 3 and 4 from yesterday’s quiz had to do with how people pleasing can make us feel.

Do you feel guilty or selfish when you take time for yourself? That’s likely a symptom of chronic people pleasing. You may be worried that others will think you’re lazy or misjudge you if you slow down from time to time.

The problem is that God commands us to Sabbath (a.k.a. rest). He does this for our own good, because our batteries need a recharge from time to time. When we never recharge, our emotions and bodies start coasting on fumes.

People pleasers can also tend to put way too much stock into the opinions of others. Don’t hear me saying that it’s a wise choice to never care what others think of you. It’s good to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. However, Jesus wasn’t always popular, and He never won everyone over. He cared far too much about what His Father thought of Him to be pulled by the opinions of others.

People won’t always like you. The crowd won’t always cheer you on. But public opinion is a nasty trap when we try to cater to it. At the end of the day, it’s most important what God thinks of us. (Hint: He’s a huge fan!)

Scenario #5: When you do something nice for someone else, do you want credit?

Matthew 6:1–4 says, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Doing something nice for a moment of glory is a trap. God says when we do so, we’ve received all of the reward we can expect because He wants us to serve others in order to please Him. That means that if no one ever notices, we still serve others because our goal is to please God.

When we live to please people, we will find our hearts often snagged by emotions like fear, anxiety, worry, exhaustion, burnout, and confusion. However, God outlines an alternative that cuts a clear path for us—no hidden minefields.

Go back to the verse at the beginning of this post.

Option #1 is to fear man, or live to please others. The Bible says this lays a trap.

Option #2 is to trust in the Lord, to live life with His opinion in mind, to seek to please Him above all others. Proverbs 29:25 tells us that this route keeps us safe from the kind of traps I just described in the scenarios above. That’s why when it comes to people pleasing, we all must choose our own adventure . . .

What about you? Have you found yourself snagged by living to please others? If so, what’s one way you can choose the safer path of living to please the Lord this week?

Are You A People Pleaser?

On some level, each of us wants to please the people around us. People pleasing seems to be stamped into our DNA, especially as girls. However, working too hard to please others can be like stepping into a trap. More on that tomorrow . . . for now, I’d like to get the wheels in your head turning as you think about how people pleaserimportant it is for to you to please or impress others.

So let’s kick this week off with a little quiz. (No worries—you get an automatic A++ just for participating!)

Check out the questions below, and leave us a comment with your answers. But before you start, let me give you one rule—don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. I’m not interested in hearing the "right" answers or dialoging in Christianese. That’s the kind of people pleasing stuff that gets us all into hot water from time to time.


Ready. Set. Think!

1. You have a HUGE assignment due tomorrow. Your best friend calls and begs you to go to the basketball game with her. Do you . . .
a. Explain that you have to stay home and finish your work but promise to join her next time.
b. Blow off your assignment and go to the game.
c. Agree to go to the basketball game and then stay up all night finishing your assignment.
d. Stay home to do homework, but worry constantly that you’ve disappointed your friend.

2. Your schedule is already full, and your pastor approaches you and asks you to volunteer once a week in the church nursery. You are not particularly passionate about children and you are already involved in several ministries that do match your gifts. Do you . . .
a. Tell your pastor thanks but no thanks.
b. Agree to work in the nursery but fail to follow through.
c. Agree to work in the nursery and spend months frustrated by the time commitment and stressed because you feel stretched too thin.

3. Taking time for yourself makes you feel . . .
a. Refreshed
b. Guilty
c. Selfish

4. When you find out someone doesn’t like you, what do you do?
a. Do whatever it takes to change that person’s mind. (AKA get them to love you!)
b. Not worry about it.
c. Go to that person and try to talk to them about why they don’t like you.

5. When you do something nice for someone else do you . . .
a. Hope they are blessed.
b. Hope they think you are amazing.
c. Hope they see your generosity as a reflection of your faith.

Tomorrow, we will open up the Word to see what God says about people pleasing. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Looking back at your answers, do you see yourself as a people pleaser?

Self-Control and Pickle Cravings

I’m so tired I feel like I’m moving with concrete feet. The first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning is when I can take a nap. My pillow calls my name all day long. My husband and kids are getting on my nerves. Sometimes I want to yell at them. Sometimes I do yell at them. The next moment I’m in tears. I crave dill pickles. Oh, and dill pickle juice. I drink the stuff straight out of the jar.

Yep, I’m pregnant. Which means I’m strapped in for one of the wildest emotional roller coaster rides a girl can take. I cry a lot. I feel agitated much more than usual. I have zero motivation to do anything but sleep. And yet I find myself re-enrolled in a “school” where I’ve taken classes twice before. The lesson plans focus on self-control in the midst of mood swings, morning sickness, and weird food cravings. I sense the Lord trying to teach me that self-control is a gift He wants to give me, and that now—more than ever—I must do the hard work to keep my flesh in check. 

This verse is confirmation:

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” (Prov. 25:28)

Translation: When I lack self-control, I am vulnerable to attack.

And then there’s this hard-hitting truth:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:22–24)

Notice there is no amendment for pregnant girls, tired moms, or mothers of two-year-olds. There are no exceptions for hormones, stress, or all-nighters. God asks us to practice self-control and then promises to provide it for us when we are lacking.

This means that “eating for two” is not an excuse to have hot fudge sundaes for breakfast. It means that being tired is not a good reason to stop parenting my other children or to be rude or demanding of my husband. It means I can’t let my hormones rule me. And it means, when I cannot do it on my own, that God will help me. He created those hormones after all. He is able to rein them in.

You may not be pregnant, but I bet there are things in your world that make you feel justified in losing control. As the pot calling the kettle black, let me remind you that lacking self-control leaves you vulnerable and open to attacks from the enemy. In contrast, controlling yourself—as in your temper, your cravings, your flesh—is evidence that God is at work in your life.

Are there areas of your life where you are lacking self-control? Will you join me in ’fessing up and then asking God to give you self-control in those areas where you are the weakest?

A Call To Pray For Your College Campus

Are there things about your school that you’d like to see God change?

Are there people on your campus who desperately need to know the powerful message of the gospel or the reach of God’s love?

Do you sometimes feel like the only one at your school who is willing to live like God’s called you?

If you answered "yes," let me follow up with one more question. (Zero guilt intended. Promise.)

When was the last time you prayed for your school?

With that question in mind, I’d like to invite you to check out this video, promoting the 2013 Collegiate Day of Prayer.

Will you join those who have already agreed to set aside the day to pray for campuses across the country? Will you pray for the college campus close to you on February 28, or make plans to pray for your own high school?

If so, leave us a comment to tell you what school you’ll be praying for just ten days from today.

PS: Click on this site for more info.

More Than Waiting Well

We talk a lot on this blog about waiting for God to bring the right kind of guy at the right time. It’s an important message. Much heartache has been caused by rushing into love or forcing a relationship that is outside the parameters of God’s best for you.

girl and balloonWhen it comes to love, I want you to wait well. But I also want you to know that waiting well doesn’t work like a magic formula. You can guard your purity. You can trust God with your love life. You can write lists and save pennies and work on being the right person for love, but none of that guarantees that you will end up happily married to the man of your dreams until death do you part.

I want to temper the good advice we’re offering you on this blog about waiting with the reality that God is in charge and He has not promised our version of a fairy tale ending, no matter how well we wait.

It’s a reminder that Lies Young Women Believe author Nancy Leigh DeMoss gives in the book Lies Women Believe. She addresses unfulfilled longings—those desires we have that go unmet. Nancy teaches two key lessons about unfulfilled longings that seem worth repeating this Valentine’s Day.

Lesson #1: We will always have unfulfilled longings this side of heaven.

"If we

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could have all our longings fulfilled down here, we would easily be satisfied with staying here, and our hearts would never long for a better place," Nancy writes.

She goes on to point out that instead of taking matters into our own hands, we must learn to be content. Contentment means to be satisfied . . . to stop looking over the fence and admiring the green grass of other circumstances and to decide that the way your life is right now is okay with you. It’s an idea that reminds me of something the apostle Paul wrote:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me (Phil. 4:11–13).

Paul knew what it was like to go without, but he also knew a secret: contentment doesn’t come from having everything we want; it comes from looking to Christ for strength.

God may or may not grant your desire to be married just like He may not grant many other desires, even the things you really, really want. As you look at your life, do you take Paul’s approach? Have you learned to be content, even when things don’t go the way that you want them to? Single or married, in love or out, can you say that you are satisfied because your strength, joy, peace, etc. comes from God? That’s the sweet spot, and choosing to be content—even when things don’t go like you want them to—is even more important than simply waiting well.

Lesson #2: The deepest longings of our hearts cannot be filled by any created person or thing.

"This is one of the most liberating truths I have discovered in my own pilgrimage," Nancy writes. "For years, I looked to people and circumstances to make me happy. Time after time, when they failed to come through, I would find myself disgruntled and disappointed."

Do you feel like having a guy will make you happy? Would being married ease the disappointment you feel about your life? Maybe. For a while, but the truth is no person, no matter how great, can meet your deepest longings. That’s God’s job.

That’s the message I want to seek deep into your hearts today, girls. God is enough. He is the answer to:

  • your loneliness.
  • your longing to be loved.
  • your desire to be known.
  • your fears about the future.

I think it’s great to desire marriage. God designed it after all! I want you to wait for God’s timing for romance and to keep your eyes on Him while you wait. But I don’t want you to think of love like a race, where you will someday cross the finish line. Instead, know that married or unmarried unfulfilled longings are part of our citizenship on the planet. There will be things we want that we do not get and the deepest holes in our hearts can only be filled by God.

If you’re waiting for love this Valentine’s Day, let me encourage you to do more than wait well. Instead, be satisfied. Let God be enough for you today, and trust Him with the desires of your heart that have not been met yet.

What do you find most difficult about being content in your current circumstances? Leave us a comment to tell us about it. We’d love to pray with you that God would show you that He is enough.

Worth The Wait

Candy hearts. Chocolate kisses. Red roses. Yep. Tomorrow must be Valentine’s Day. It can be a great day for those who are in love. For those who are not, an entire holiday dedicated to romance can be a little (okay a lot!) discouraging.

I know that many of the readers of this blog are single. You have written to tell us that you are committed to God’s will when it comes to romance. To you I send out a colossal pat on the back. (I’d send you each a bag of chocolate if I could!) I know that waiting isn’t easy, especially when the whole world seems to be celebrating being in love.

That’s why I wanted to tell you Stephanie’s story. Stephanie knows what it’s like to wait for love. She also knows the rewards of waiting well with her eyes on Jesus. If you find yourself waiting this Valentine’s Day, be encouraged by Stephanie. She’d tell you that spending a few Valentine’s Days alone is a small price to pay for letting God write your love story.

Meet Stephanie. She’s my super-talented, super-fun, music-loving friend. She also happens to be thirty-nine years old. Oh, and she’s single. She’s been faithfullyStephanie waiting for God to bring her the right man at the right time for a long time.

Several years ago, Stephanie decided to do something while she waited. She started collecting pennies. I’ve been with Stephanie when she’s seen a penny on a sidewalk. Watch out! Little old ladies and small children best not stand between Stephanie and a penny. That’s because for sixteen years Stephanie has put the pennies she finds in a jar. For more than six years she has saved every single penny she comes across. When she puts a penny in a jar, she prays this prayer:

Jesus, thank You that You are going to bring me the man of my dreams in Your timing. When You do, I will cash in these pennies to buy his wedding band.

Stephanie's penniesThe pennies keep Stephanie’s heart focused on God. Every penny is a reminder that God is good . . . He is faithful . . .He can be trusted. The pennies have become a reminder to trust, to wait patiently, and put her hope in God.

Stephanie isn’t the only one who needs this reminder. As people heard about Stephanie’s penny collection, they remembered that they are also called to put their hope in God and to wait patiently for His plan to unfold. They started sending her pennies as a thank-you. She has pennies in her penny jar from all over the world.

Stephanie has waited a long time. She’s collected a lot of pennies—over 20,000 to be exact.

Then one day last year, Stephanie met Eloy. (Eloy happens to be a super-talented, super-fun, music-loving guy!)
Stephanie and Eloy

I happened to be in the room for that electric introduction. Sparks flew, but they were tempered by two hearts that had learned long ago to let God call the shots. After that day, Stephanie and Eloy prayerfully moved forward. They sought wise guidance from others who committed to pray. They looked to God for direction every step of the way.

God’s direction led to a diamond ring.

Next month, Stephanie will walk down the aisle to the groom she has waited so long for. Her promise will change from agreeing to faithfully wait on God’s timing to agreeing to faithfully be the wife God has called her to be. She will still need to put her hope in God. She will still need to keep her eyes on Him. And He will prove that He is still faithful, every step of the way.

Stephanie's engagementWhat happens to the pennies? Well, Stephanie has officially cashed them in to buy Eloy’s wedding ring. On the inside she had these words inscribed, "Ur Worth Every Penny!"

I don’t know how many Valentine’s Days you will spend without a valentine, but I do know this: God is faithful. He can be trusted. His plan is what’s best for you. This year, instead of pining for love or pushing for romance, let me encourage you to start a penny collection of your own. Grab a jar. Toss in some pennies, and offer this prayer.

Jesus, I want You to be in charge of my love life. If it’s Your will, please bring me a man who loves You in Your timing. While I wait, I want You to know that You are my treasure.

An Open Letter To Lance Armstrong

If you haven’t already heard, bicycling superstar Lance Armstrong made shockwaves last month by admitting to “doping” during his long and celebrated athletic career. He’s back in the news this week with the possibility of facing criminal charges for the scandal. Commentators far and wide have analyzed Lance and his confession. As I’ve read the news about his downfall, I’ve done some analyzing myself. If I had ten minutes with Lance Armstrong, this is what I’d say.


We’ve never met. I did rock one of your yellow Livestrong bracelets for a month or two at one point (mostly just because I like yellow), but I must admit I’m not a sports enthusiast, don’t own a bicycle, and can’t tell you how many miles are in the Tour de France.

I guess that makes me a strange candidate to have something to say about your life. I’m sure it seems everyone wants a piece of you these days. Maybe you would prefer if soccer moms in Missouri stayed out of your mess.

But I’ve been thinking of you often, and I want to tell you three important things:

You are loved.

You can be forgiven.

Redemption is possible.

You are loved. Sin has a way of making us feel particularly unlovable. When there’s no denying we’ve messed up, we all feel disappointed in ourselves, ashamed of what we’ve done, and doubtful about our worth. I’ve never had a confession session with Oprah, but I’ve made plenty of big mistakes. I know what it’s like to wear those mistakes like a label and feel like it’s the only thing people see when they look at me. But fortunately, I also know what God’s Word says about my value is true, even when I’ve blown it.

Nothing (not even big mistakes) can separate me from His love. God loves me so much that He sent His son to die in my place.

This can be true for you, Lance. Clearly, you are an achiever. I know you’ve felt the glory that comes with the kind of love that is earned by performing well. But God’s love doesn’t hinge on a race or a gold medal. In fact, God knew you would take trophies you didn’t deserve by hiding things you shouldn’t have done. And still God loves you and offers the incredible gift of forgiveness and redemption.

You can be forgiven. I don’t know why you ’fessed up in front of millions. My guess is the weight of what you’d done started to crush you. Nothing you said to yourself eased your angst. You wanted someone to tell you it was okay and you were forgiven. Been there. Done that.

The public may not forgive you. Your teammates may never let this go. The people you love most may never look you in the eyes and tell you they accept your apology. But Lance Armstrong, you can be forgiven.

First John 1:9 makes this promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I don’t have access to the laundry list of things you’ve done that separate you from a holy God. Frankly, I’ve got the stench of my own rotten heart to deal with. But I know this. If you turn to God and confess your sin, you will be forgiven. God’s Word promises you can be clean.

I suppose there is a catch. You must repent. Repentance isn’t exactly the same as a tell-all TV special. Repentance is between you and God (no studio audience necessary). It means that you own up to your junk and the gulf it has caused between you and Him. The doping, yes, but also all the other stuff that violates God’s perfect standards.

Repentance also requires you to turn in the opposite direction. You’re a runner, you’ll be able to picture this. It’s like you’re running hard in one direction—toward your sin, your pride, and your plan for me-centric living—and then you stop, turn on your heel, and run just as hard in the opposite direction. I’m not saying repentance is easy. It is not. But I am saying that the finish line for repentance is God-given forgiveness. At the end of all of this, that is the only finish line worth crossing.

Redemption is possible. Forgiveness and redemption are like two sides of the same coin. We want to know our dirt has been washed away, and we want to know we can be restored to the positions we held before our fall.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

God’s promise to those who love Him is that He can work all things for our good. That is especially true of the things the world looks at and says, “No good can come of this.” I don’t know if you’ll ever race again. I can’t say what will happen to your bank account, your trophy case, or your public standing. But I do know this: God wants to use every piece of your life. Redemption is His specialty. God can restore more than you ever thought possible through Christ. In fact, He can give you a brand-new identity (2 Cor. 5:17)!

Lance, your story has been a vivid reminder to me lately that God is the only safe place to put my hope. Heroes will fall. Trophies will tarnish. Public opinion will change in an instant, but God loves me. He is willing to forgive me, even when my mistakes are public and painful. He is always working to redeem everything in my life for my good and His glory.

I hope you know the same is true for you. No medal you could win or lose could make Him love you more. He’s the only One offering the kind of forgiveness that will lift the crushing weight on your life. He is able untangle the mess you are in and work it for your good. I hope you will grab onto those truths and hold on for dear life. It really is the only way to live truly strong.



I Want To Be Noticed!

"My heart cries for acceptance, for love."

"My heart cry is to be cherished. I want to be loved, really loved."

"My heart’s longing is for people to love me. Some days I barely feel noticed, let alone loved."

These are among the many brave comments left under a post Paula wrote weeks ago about the heart cry of one little boy. (Read that post here.) I can relate to every single one of you who feels like you will never be loved enough, cherished enough, or noticed often enough. I’ve spent much of my life craving human attention and feeling mostly disappointed.

I don’t know your stories. I don’t know if you really do have anyone who notices you, cherishes you, or loves you. It may be that those needs truly are going unmet by the people in your life. It may also be (and seems more likely) that you are loved deeply, but somehow it just isn’t enough for you.

I’ve seen it before. The stories of several Hollywood superstars come to mind. They have millions of adoring fans. They have people paying to put their smile on magazine covers. They have lots of people telling them how fabulous they are. They are noticed. They are accepted. They are loved, and yet . . . more often than not, they self-destruct. Somehow all the praise in the world just can’t fill them up.

leaky bucketI think I know why. For a visual, let’s think of our need to be noticed, loved, and accepted like an empty bucket. We think, If I was just loved unconditionally by one person, my bucket would be full, or If more people just noticed me, my bucket would be full, or If someone just truly cherished me, that would fill my bucket up. But we find ourselves disappointed and our buckets empty over and over again.

Here’s why:

"For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer. 2:13, emphasis added).

To understand that "fountain of living waters" business, we have to skip ahead in the Bible to Jesus’ earthly ministry. In John 4:1–26 we find the story of a woman who really wanted to be noticed. The Bible tells us she jumped from romantic relationship to romantic relationship hoping to satisfy her deepest longings. Been there? Done that? But sadly, she found that looking to guys to scratch her itch to be loved was like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Jesus looked at her leaky bucket and offered her "living water." His point was that only God could truly satisfy the longings of her heart. Looking to Him to meet our deepest needs is the only way to quench our insatiable thirst for more. More love . . . more attention . . . more compliments . . . more significance.

Think back to that passage from Jeremiah. God is comparing two realities here.

The people of Jeremiah’s day had stopped looking to God for their satisfaction. I don’t know who or what they were hoping would make them feel okay, but it doesn’t matter. The result was like pouring water into a leaky bucket. It just didn’t work.

You see the answer isn’t to be noticed more often, loved by more people, or cherished more deeply. The answer is to know that God has already noticed you. In fact, He studies you. (Matthew 10:30 says He knows the very number of hairs on your head.) He loves you so much He sent His Son to die for you (John 3:16). He cherishes you like a father cherishes His own daughter (Rom. 8:15).

The trick is to let that be enough—to let the truth about who you are to the God of the universe fill your bucket instead of constantly looking to the people in your world to make you feel noticed.

It’s not an easy switch to make. Praise from people seems so tangible sometimes compared to the affirmation we find in God’s Word, but ultimately it is just like pouring water into a leaky bucket. It never lifts our spirits for long.

How about you? Have you been pouring water into a leaky bucket? Looking to the people around you to make you feel loved and important? I hate to go all Dr. Phil on you, but how is that working for you?

If your bucket’s sprung a leak, let me offer you a patch kit. God alone is able to fill you up and answer your heart’s cry. He’s the only one offering "living water" that can take away our thirst for good.

I’d like to ask you to make a choice.

Option #1: Leaky bucket.

Choosing this route means continuing to look to other people to make you feel loved, accepted, and cherished. You should know up front that this route never works for long.

Option #2: Living water.

You make the choice to let God satisfy your craving to be loved. You study what He says about you in His Word, and you choose to believe it even if your feelings tell you otherwise.

Which one will you choose? Leave us a comment below to tell us about it.

Best Of: I’ve Got A Fever And The Only Cure Is . . .

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This blog on spring fever sure got you talking. I know it’s the middle of winter now, but the points made in this post apply in any season.  

Spring fever is a real condition. I know because Wikipedia says so.

It’s that sudden feeling that you might just burst if you don’t get into a relationship. Or a new obsession over a guy who seemed pretty boring in the winter months,He loves me, he loves me not. but now he is all you can think about. Spring fever is a "sickness" that can keep you completely distracted by romance and wandering around in a love-struck daze.

No one knows what it is about spring that gets us all revved up for love, but I know that for a girl committed to God’s plan for her love life a sudden burst of romantic feelings can be painfully tough to deal with. So here is your spring survival kit—a few doses of God’s Word to temper your heart as you wait for love in the right season.

Temptation is not a sin.
Just because you are tempted to be with a boy you shouldn’t, enter a relationship too soon, or let your thoughts jump down the rabbit hole of romance doesn’t mean you are in sin. Jesus Himself was tempted and yet remained sinless.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

There will be seasons when your heart pulls toward love outside of God’s will and timing. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that purity is impossible. It just means you have to persevere in your commitment to wait. Temptations are a reminder to pray for strength, to study God’s Word, and to surround yourself with wise, supportive Christian friends and mentors.

Waiting is possible.
First Corinthians 10:13 gives us a promise we can hold on to: "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."

When it comes to pure romance, waiting is possible. Your feelings may say otherwise. There may be moments this spring (or next spring or the next . . .) that you feel like you just might keel over from the angst of waiting. But take heart! God has promised you can endure the pain of waiting. Look for the way out.

Be God crazy.
Being God crazy is the only cure for being boy crazy in any season.

Psalm 37:4 urges, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Find ways to find your delight in Jesus in this season. Seek Him more through prayer and Bible study. Spend more time with Christian friends. Go outside and thank Him for the beauty of His creation. Grab a new worship CD and worship Him instead of thinking about the boy who makes your pulse race.

Best Of: Being The Girl That No One Wanted

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the “best of” the blog all month. This vlog was part of our series from The Jesus Storybook Bible. With more than 100 comments and over 1,000 YouTube views, clearly many of you know what it’s like to feel like the girl that no one wants.





Best Of: I've Never Been Exposed To Satanic Activities

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This blog on exposure to evil was one of our most popular posts ever. It was originally posted around Halloween, but even after that holiday has come and gone, clearly many of you are wondering if you’ve ever been exposed to satanic activities.  

Where I live, there are skeletons hanging in the grocery store, zombies at Walmart, and lots of opportunities to attend events and movies that are dark and scary. I bet the same is true in your neck of the woods.

scary movieA trip to the

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movie theater turns up the same scary results. Invitations to attend these movies or watch scary movies at home may well be coming your way along with opportunities to go to haunted houses ripe with depictions of the "un-dead" (think zombies, ghosts, and mummies).

I posted a "Lies guide to Halloween" with my thoughts on how to best navigate this spooky holiday, but long before the trick or treating begins it is important to consider what God’s Word says about dabbling (that doesn’t necessarily mean participating!) in things like witchcraft, sorcery, and the occult.

Deuteronomy 18:10–12 says, "There shall not be found among you … anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD."

Leviticus 20:6 says, "If a person turns to mediums or necromancers … I will set my face against that person."

Let me translate. Divination is telling the future (fortunetelling). Sorcerers communicate with evil spirits. Necromancers seek to communicate with the dead for the purposes of magic.

I know that sounds like some pretty trippy stuff. The reasons to stay clear are many, which is why the Bible warns so strongly against it. But it is important to be aware that these things might not show up as overtly as you might think.

Almost all of the girls I interviewed for Lies Young Women Believe told me that they had never been exposed to satanic activities, and yet a study of girls who were actively involved in their youth groups found that in the previous three months:

  • 72 percent of young women had looked at or read their horoscopes.
  • 28 percent had their palm read.
  • 42 percent had participated in psychic-related activities.
  • 82 percent had watched supernatural and spiritual themes in movies or on TV.

I imagine that these numbers likely represent many of you, meaning that you have been exposed to satanic activities, maybe in the past few weeks, and you don’t even know it.

That’s why the lie, I’ve Never Been Exposed to Satanic Activities made the list of the top twenty-five lies addressed in Lies Young Women Believe.

Nancy and Dannah wrote about it this way:

It’s easy to become comfortable with evil when we are exposed to it casually or repeatedly. And while casual exposure alone may not destroy your faith and values, you need to be aware that exposure plus a lack of awareness of what you’re exposed to can be dangerous…. Be aware of what you are getting close to and what God says about it (Lies Young Women Believe, 64).

If there is one month out of the year when you are most likely to experience casual and repeated exposure to satanic activities, it’s this month. In response, put things like divination or sorcery on your list of things to stay clear of.

What can you do to guard your mind against casual or repeated exposure to evil this month (and all year long)?

Best Of: To Those Wrestling With Lesbianism

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This blog on homosexuality was one of our most popular posts ever. It received 90 comments. If you’ve struggled in this area, this post is for you.

sad girlI love it when you ask tough questions. Digging into God’s Word to find answers about the complex issues you are thinking about and dealing with is one of the best perks of my job. That’s why this week I want to tackle an issue that many of you have written to us about—homosexuality.

Here’s a quick look at some of the comments you’ve sent us on this subject.

I’m a lesbian. I’ve known I like girls since I was four. I believe in the power of Christ and accept Him into my heart, but I also believe that the love between two women is in no way inferior to the love between a man and a woman. I know the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, but I pray that Jesus will love and accept me as I am. I have never liked guys, and I’m not going to live my entire life pretending I do to please Jesus, though I love Him. Just wanted to share a different perspective.

Just as the color of your hair or skin, your sexual preference is decided by your GENETICS. People who identify as being gay or homosexual do not have a choice in who they love. It is unfair to try and force a person out of a trait they cannot change. Imagine for a moment why, for any reason, you have the right to judge another person for the way that they LOVE another person. Homosexuality does not harm any aspect of this world, economy, or marriage. These are real living people who are as dedicated to each other as the oldest couples you know. Please stop spreading the prejudice toward individuals who identify as homosexual. Please don’t let your personal opinions choke another’s right to live and experience.

What exactly does the Bible say about homosexuality? I know it says stuff against it in the Old Testament, and I don’t believe it’s right, but I was wondering which specific verses talk about it.

Before we go much deeper, we need to establish this baseline—God sees homosexuality as sinful. His point of view on this issue is stated clearly in His Word. In fact, I dedicated an entire post to this subject several months ago. You can read that post here, but here are some key verses to keep in mind.

Leviticus 18:22 says, "‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.’"

Leviticus 20:13 says, "‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.’"

First Corinthians 6:9–10 says, "Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

Since God’s Word is so clear on this subject, why has the issue become so cloudy in the minds of so many? I think the first two readers I quoted hit on a key area of confusion—the common belief that homosexuals are born gay. You might be shocked to hear that the Bible actually agrees, but not on the terms that the world gives. You see we are all born with a bent toward sin.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Ps. 51:5).

In Romans 7:18, Paul said, "For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."

We are all born with a desire, a tendency, and a capacity to sin. For some the tendency is to abuse substances or to have angry outbursts or to act promiscuously in heterosexual relationships. For others, possibly as a result of family history, environment, and poor choices, the tendency might be to gravitate toward homosexuality. But just because it feels natural doesn’t mean it isn’t sin or even that it is in our best interest. Sin is our nature, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it always wreaks havoc in our lives. 

So to you, sweet girls, who are struggling with an inclination toward lesbianism, let me offer you this hope. Jesus came to break the power of your sin nature in your life. 

In Romans 7:25 we read, "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin."

You may have always had homosexual feelings, so much so that if feels like you were created a homosexual. But that’s not what God’s Word says. The Bible acknowledges that yes, you were born sinful, but you were also created as a child of God, redeemable by His sacrifice on the cross. God asks you to throw off your sin and run the race of life for His glory (Heb. 12:1). 

I know this is a complex topic, so let’s keep talking about it. And let us work together to satisfy our natural inclination to sin less and to honor our powerful God more. In what other areas of your life do you naturally gravitate toward sin? What verses do you rely on to remind you of God’s truth in this area?

Best Of: What If I've Blown It?

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate, we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This post on sin was one of our most popular posts ever. It received over 100 comments. If you’ve sinned (we all have!), we hope you will be encouraged with these truths from God’s Word.

upset young womanIn response to our posts on love and romance, many of you have written to us to tell us that you’ve messed up in the area of purity. When it comes to being physically and emotionally pure, clearly many of you feel like you’ve blown it. You’ve shared with us that the end result of bad choices has been disappointment, pain, and heartbreak.

I know for sure that one way the enemy seeks to take young women out is to trick them into making compromises in their romantic relationships. He tells a million lies like "purity isn’t possible," "it’s okay if you love him," and "everyone else is doing it" to get young women to forfeit emotional or physical purity. The end result is devastating.

I wish that none of you had to wrestle with the pain caused by messing up in the area of romance, but since so many of you have bravely shared that you’ve made mistakes, I wanted to write a post to give you hope.

I’ve talked to many young women who mistakenly believe that once they’ve compromised, they cannot stop or turn back. Having already lost their virginity or given away their hearts, they see no way to get it back, so they decide it’s too late for them and keep making things worse by perpetuating their sinful behavior.

If that describes you, I want you to know that it is absolutely not too late for you. If you’ve sinned sexually, it’s true that you can never become a physical virgin again. If you’ve failed to protect your heart, you cannot undo the pain that’s resulted. But that’s water under the bridge. God can wipe the slate clean.

It is not too late to turn and go in a different direction. God has made a way for you to experience His love and forgiveness and to turn away from your past sin and patterns of behavior.

To do so requires you to take specific action.

1. Acknowledge your sin.

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

2. Confess it.

In 1 John 1:9 we read, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

3. Accept Christ’s forgiveness.

For many young women this is the most difficult step. In 1 John 1:9, God promises that He will forgive us of our sin and wipe the slate clean. But young women who have stepped outside of God’s boundaries for relationships often feel cheap, used, and unworthy of God’s love, and so they continue to sin. If you’ve fallen into this kind of thinking, the reality is that you have given up on God’s forgiveness. When you refuse to forgive yourself and to approach the throne of God to seek His forgiveness, you are saying that God is a liar and that Christ’s sacrifice is not enough. When you consider yourself beyond forgiveness, you are saying that God is not all-powerful and that He is unable to cope with the magnitude of what you’ve done.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

God’s love for you and His forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross is far greater than anything in your past, present, or future. The basis for your forgiveness is not the level of your sin or even your feelings about what you’ve done. The basis for forgiveness is Christ’s death on the cross.

God in eternity past knew we would sin. So He provided for His Son, Jesus Christ, to take on human flesh and to go to the cross. Jesus had the infinite capacity to take all our sins upon Himself and pay the price. He went to the cross and said, "It is finished," meaning everything that was necessary for you to be forgiven had been done.

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

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

You can make a choice that today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can step off the path of sexual or emotional sin and accept Christ’s forgiveness for your sin. But you can’t stop there.

Matthew 3:8 says, "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Fully embracing God’s forgiveness means making choices to keep you from falling back into the same trap. Bearing the fruit of your repentance means making choices to keep you from returning to sin. Just as sin is a choice, a renewed commitment to God’s standards is a choice—one that often takes hard work.

What’s holding you back from accepting Christ’s forgiveness and choosing a different path in your romantic relationships? What choices do you need to make to keep you from returning to sin?

Best Of: Looking For "The One"

From the team: It’s our fifth birthday here on the blog. To celebrate we are featuring the "best of" the blog all month. This post on finding "the one" got you talking. With 116 comments, clearly many of you are wondering if "the one" is out there. Here is my two cents on the subject.

bride and groomIt’s the stuff fairy tales are made of. One guy. One girl. Destined to be together forever as husband and wife. They are made for each other, and they fit together like two pieces of the same puzzle. They spend their whole lives looking for each other, and when they meet they "just know" that they’ve found "the one." 


The idea that there is one person out there for us is certainly a romantic one. But to be honest, I’m not sure it’s biblical. I’ve been looking, and I can’t find any evidence in Scripture that God creates one specific person to be our mate. I know that this has the potential to burst a lot of bubbles, but I still think it’s a subject worth tackling (I’ll get to why in a minute). 

There are lots of great romances in the Bible. Let’s start with Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2 we read that Eve was created to be a helper to Adam. There wasn’t much risk that these two wouldn’t match up since they were the only people in creation. I’m not sure God’s plan for who we are to marry outside of the Garden is so specific. 

Abraham and Sarah were happily married, but we don’t learn anything about their story until Abraham was seventy-five years old. There’s no evidence that God instructed Abraham to marry Sarah because she was "the one" (Gen. 12). 

Jacob loved Rachel, but he met her because he stole his brother’s blessing and was forced to flee his home (Gen. 27–28). Ruth married Boaz, but it was only after her first husband died. I can’t think of any examples where Scripture seems to indicate that God chose who an individual fell in love with and married. 

The Bible does indicate that God knows who we will marry simply because He is omniscient. First John 3:20 tells us that God knows everything. Psalm 147:5 says that His understanding has no limit. But knowing who we will marry and choosing who we will marry are two different things.

I realize it may seem like I am splitting hairs here, but there is a reason why I think it’s worth making the distinction. Thinking that God has created someone just for you (and you for him) sets you up for disappointment. Through His Word, God does command us to marry a believer (2 Cor. 6:14) and several passages give us helpful guidelines for what qualities to look for in a potential mate (1 Cor. 13:4–7, Titus 1:5–9). But if you’re looking for a perfect match, you won’t find him. If you head into marriage thinking that you were made for each other and will fit together perfectly, you may find yourself disillusioned when trials come and your relationship is strained. We know from Scripture that God designed marriage and He created men and women to complement each other, but it isn’t perfect. You will never find "the one" who "completes you" like a missing puzzle piece. 

Well . . . I guess that isn’t exactly true.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:4–8). 

Now that’s romantic. 

Too Embarrassed to Ask for Prayer?

Here’s another of our favorite posts from the last five years—originally featured on March 3, 2011—on removing masks and the power of prayer.

Let us know how we can pray for you below, and we’ll choose one of you at random on Friday, January 18, to receive What Happens When Women Pray by Evelyn Christenson. (More importantly, though, will you take off your mask with someone in your local church body?)

Last week was particularly tough at the Davis household. I was working on a really tight writing deadline. There was no room in my schedule for unplanned interruptions. Apparently, the nasty staff infection that invaded my husband’s hand didn’t get the memo.

On Monday, I got a call from my husband that a wound we dismissed as a bug bite was actually an infection caused by a strand of staff that does not respond well to medicine. The doctors were considering admitting him. They were almost certain he would permanently lose the use of his hand. I wanted to pray but I couldn’t get words past the lump in my throat. I feared for the well-being of my man, I had to care for my two small children, and I was anxious about meeting my deadline.

At that moment, a friend called and I broke down. She prayed with me and asked if she could recruit others to pray. I didn’t want to sound rude, so I said okay. She kept her word. Within a few hours tons of people were praying for our family. They called and texted with encouraging Scripture or by simply saying “we’re praying.”

Here’s the funny thing. All of that prayer didn’t make me feel better. At least not at first. The emotion that I felt the strongest that afternoon was embarrassment. I didn’t like everyone knowing that things weren’t perfect behind our front door. I didn’t like the feeling that I couldn’t pray myself out of this mess all on my own. Most of all, I didn’t like the harsh reality that I couldn’t keep all the plates spinning.

The Lord tenderly dealt with my heart that day. He reminded me that He created the church to be a support network, and He called my reluctance to ask for prayer what it really was—pride.

As I gave my husband his pain medicine, tucked him in to bed, and sat down to eat the dinner that some praying friends were sweet enough to drop by, I thought about the pride of not sharing how people can pray for me. When people ask, I rarely have a reply or I go for something safe and surface like “my kids have a cold.” I rarely go deep and open up about the areas of my life where I really need God’s power to create change. I’m realizing that if I want to see the power of prayer in my own life and in the lives of others, I need to get real about the broken places where I need God to work. That means admitting areas where I am weak and cannot do it on my own.

James 5:13-16 says,

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

This verse tells us to call the leaders of our churches when we’re sick, to confess sins to each other, and to pray for each other. Why? So that we can be healed.

Ladies, I am learning that part of why God has placed me in a church family is so that I have prayer support when I need it most. But in order for it to work that way, I have to take off my mask of perfection and say, “I am struggling. Will you pray for me?” If I keep offering up only trivial prayer requests, I cannot tap into the true power of prayer.

I can attest that the last part of that verse is certainly true. The more people that prayed, the more we saw an improvement in my husband’s health. Last Friday, he was released from treatment with full use of his hand. Doctors marveled at the change as they saw his infection healing and his hope remaining steadfast. When people asked him what made the difference, he was quick to point to all the prayers. Also, in what can only be described as a “loaves and fishes experience,” God multiplied my time and energy and I made my writing deadline. I know that if I had refused to ask those around me to pray, this story would have a much different ending.

How about you? Are you willing to get real about areas where you need others to pray for you? Or will you just stick to the surface stuff? Is there an area of need in your life that you think you could never share with anyone? I encourage you to find a praying friend, take off your mask of perfection, and ask for help.