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God Believes in Aliens (A.K.A You!)

God Believes in Aliens (A.K.A You!)

When I was a teen, all I wanted was to be “normal,” to fit in. But my parents’ rules wouldn’t allow for it. I had to wear shorts that hit the top of my knees. My knees.

I was pulled out of square dancing in P.E. class in fourth grade, and I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at classmates’ houses or watch certain movies in school. I was weird, and I hated it.

I’m not the only one. Audrey wrote me,

Most of the people I know think I’m weird bcuz I don’t want to talk about guys and first kisses cuz I want to wait for my wedding day to have my first kiss!!!! And we’re only thirteen so why bother??? Now they all think I’m lesbian just cuz I choose not to gossip about guys (or girls) . . . Sometimes I really hate being a Christian.

I wonder if Audrey knows the real reason she’s weird.

1 Peter 2:9–12 is just one of many passages in the Bible that shows the real reason Christians are weird:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

God considers us “sojourners” and “exiles” on this earth. We might as well be aliens from a different planet! We’re separated from our true home, and we’re . . . different.

If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because you don’t belong to the cool crowd, but because you now belong to God.

If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because of the length of your shorts, but because you now wear the righteousness of Christ.

If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because of whether you can spend the night at classmates’ houses, but because you are now a home for the living God.

If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because of the words that don’t come out of your mouth, but because God has given you a brand-new, clean heart.

If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because you don’t go to homecoming, but because you’re going to heaven.

If you’re in Christ, you’re ultimately different not because you don’t belong to the cool crowd, but because you now belong to God.

The older I get, the weirder I want to become. Here’s a peek at a journal entry I wrote a few weeks ago after reading Acts 16:

Paul is crazy weird, in the best sense of the word. He is so focused, so “all in.”

  1. He’s sitting in prison . . . praying and singing praises to God. Strange!
  2. The doors to the prison open after a giant earthquake . . . and he sticks around rather than making his escape. Weird!
  3. When the police come and tell him he can leave, he says, “No way. You beat me publicly, you threw me in prison publicly . . . you can take me out publicly.” Crazy!

Oh to be as crazy all-in as Paul.

Lord, would You continue to make me bold and trusting and 100 percent sold-out to You? Please God, no more holding back. If I’m going to be weird, I want to be WEIRD.

How about you? Are you weird? If so, do you know the real reasons you’re weird? I sure hope so!

Boost Your Trust in God Today

Boost Your Trust in God Today

One of you asked me a great question recently:

What are some things you do to boost your trust in God? I’m having issues with stepping back and simply saying “You’re in charge.” I just can’t get myself to do it. I’m too stubborn. What should I do to humble myself and step back? It’s really weird. I want to, but I feel like I can’t.

First off, you’re not alone. Human beings have struggled to trust their Creator ever since . . . Genesis 3!

But if you’re ready to get serious, here are five ways you can boost your trust in God today.

1. Get to know God.

Ever since you were a little girl, you’ve been trained not to trust strangers. It’s only been as you’ve gotten to know someone that you’ve learned that they could be trusted.

As you get to know Him through His Word, you will begin to see that He is absolutely trustworthy.

The same is true of God. He is a Person who has let you know what He’s like by writing a Book about Himself. As you get to know Him through His Word, you will begin to see that He is absolutely trustworthy, and your trust in Him will grow (Rom. 10:17).

2. Learn from those who have walked with God longer than you have.

Rather than having to learn everything the hard way, grab onto the wisdom of those who have gone before. It will save you a whole lotta pain!

In Numbers 20:2, we learn that the people of Israel had no water. The thing is, forty years earlier, the previous generation had experienced the same thing (Ex. 17:1). In that case, God had provided water from a rock. How do you think this knowledge could have helped the younger generation as they faced the same test?

3. Remember God’s trustworthiness in the past.

All through Scripture God commands us to “remember,” “remember,” “remember” His faithfulness. In Joshua 4:6, the people were commanded to set up twelve stones for this reason:

“These stones will remind the people of what the Lord has done.”

What can you do today to keep track of and remember the many times God has proved Himself trustworthy? Maybe it’s journaling about the experience or framing a picture of it or . . .

4. Surround yourself with people who trust God and encourage you to trust Him as well.

Proverbs 12:26 is just one of many verses that shows us the importance of who we do life with: “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

5. Choose to trust God, even when you feel like you can’t. Just do it.

It is exactly these tough moments that will teach and strengthen you to believe and trust God. This is the perfect opportunity to grow your trust in Him! But first you’ll have to just . . . trust.

When nothing in you wants to trust God, that’s precisely when faith steps in.

Trust, or faith, is a simple (okay, not necessarily easy, but definitely doable) act of the will. When nothing in you wants to trust God, that’s precisely when faith steps in. Faith chooses to trust God’s promises rather than trusting one’s own feelings. It’s your choice: trust yourself, or trust God. Who do you think is more trustworthy?

I’d love to hear from you. How else can we all boost our trust in God?

Boost Your Trust in God Today was originally published on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

“You’re so Innocent!”

“You’re so Innocent!”

Have you ever been made fun of for being so innocent?

I have.

Innocence isn’t something our culture values.

But God does.

The other day I read a verse I’d never noticed before,

“I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Rom. 16:19).

Interesting, huh? We get that mixed up. We tend to be wise about evil but innocent about good.

If your friends find out that you’re innocent about something evil, they’ll likely laugh incredulously, “She doesn’t know about ______?!”

Innocence about evil is not a curse. It is a gift.

They’ll be more than happy to fill you in on all the dirty details. But even if they don’t, it’s easier than ever to learn about evil. All you have to do is pull up Google, and you’re a couple clicks away from moving from innocent to world-wise just like that.

So . . . will you?

A Word to Innocents:

I know you can feel like an outsider when your friends start talking and laughing about something you know nothing about. The fact is, you are an outsider. But that’s a wonderful thing! If you belong to Christ, you’re new now. Different. You belong to another kingdom. A far better one. Don’t try to fit in with the darkness; walk as a daughter of light. Never think your innocence about evil is a curse. It is a gift. Keep guarding your eyes and mind!

A Word to the World-Wise:

If you’re already “world-wise,” is it too late for you? Not at all! Ask God to make you as curious about “good” and right living as you’ve been about evil. Stop making fun of those who are more innocent than you. Don’t try to “help” them anymore by filling them in on evil. Be transformed by washing your mind with Scripture (Rom. 12:2).

A Word to Youth Leaders:

Several years ago, I asked a young woman if she thought I needed to know certain “worldly” things in order to effectively minister to teens. She said I didn’t and encouraged me to continue to seek to know the Word of God above all. How grateful I am for her wise advice. I am not aware of any ministry opportunities I have lost as a result, and there are so many dirty thoughts I don’t have to battle as a result.

I’d love to hear from you. Would you consider yourself innocent or world-wise? What is one thing you can practically do this week to pursue being “wise as to what is good”?

You’re so Innocent!” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

When Jesus Is a Joke at Your Christian School

When Jesus Is a Joke at Your Christian School

One of the saddest comments I ever read on this blog went like this:

I go to a Christian school, but we’re at the stage where Jesus is irrelevant and a joke.

After spending a week at a Christian school, I saw firsthand the kind of peer pressure (or is it persecution?) that takes place from other students at Christian schools.

I don’t share this with you to discourage you; I just don’t want you to be shocked or unprepared when you walk into your Christian school . . .  or even your local church.

Because this is a fact: Lots of people who claim to be Christians aren’t. Jesus is clear about this in Matthew 7:21–23,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

So what can you do about this?

1. Make sure that you know that you are a genuine follower of Jesus.

If you’re not positive, begin by reading “Are You Good Enough to Go to Hell?” Then pick up your Bible and read the book of 1 John (you can do it; it’s just five chapters!). As you read, ask God to help you know whether you really belong to Him.

2. Don’t expect everyone in your class to be a Christian just because they’re at a “Christian” school.

In fact, I think it’s wiser to assume that “Christians” don’t know Christ—until the “fruit” of their life proves otherwise. (For more on that, check out “Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?”)

3. Point your friends to Christ. Often.

Not to rules or Bible facts, but to Christ, and how His death, burial, and resurrection changes everything about their lives. (For more on this, read “Three Truths That Forever Changed My Life.”)

4. Pray that if you or any of your friends are deceived and think they’re a Christian when they’re not, that God would reveal the truth to them.

Have you experienced anything like this at your Christian school or church? I’d love to hear about it. If so, what will you do to know Christ yourself and then make Him known at your Christian school?

Because like it or not, you are no longer just a student at a Christian school; you are now a missionary. Shine, Christian!

When Jesus Is a Joke at Your Christian School was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Pay Me in Praise, Please!

Pay Me in Praise, Please!

I’d rather be paid in praise over a paycheck any day, I texted a friend.

Can you relate, or am I the only high-maintenance girl out there who loves to have all her work noticed and applauded?

I realized how much praise motivates me as I was examining each area of my life with the help of The Personal Vitality Plan. As I wrote down what was going well and what was being neglected in the area of my work, I kept stumbling across words like:

  • Motivated
  • Passionate
  • Wholehearted
  • Excited

Except those were words that did not describe the way I felt. I scribbled on the corners of my paper,

I wonder what it would take to get me to a place of looking forward to going into the office each day . . . Is it my problem or theirs that I’m not wholehearted, passionate, excited, and motivated about my job?

My thoughts soon meandered down the path of guilt as I reasoned with myself, Who has time to praise me for every little thing I do? How high-maintenance of me!

But then it hit me.

God’s a Father who delights in His adopted children’s worship and love of Him.

There’s nothing wrong with being motivated by praise—as long as I’m seeking HIS praise. I just tend to look for it in all the wrong places. My employer and coworkers—incredible as they are—are too busy to notice everything I do and to reward me for it.

God’s not, though.

Did you know that God is a lavish Rewarder? He loves it when His people go all out for His praise.

Don’t misunderstand me. He doesn’t love it when we work to earn His approval. But when we know that we already have His approval through Christ, He applauds our effort to please Him! Not because we deserve it; but because He’s a Father who delights in His adopted children’s worship and love of Him.

No, we won’t hear His praise right . . . this . . . second, but we will hear it! Audibly. How I want Him to say something like this to me when we first meet face to face,

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).

And so, I’m heading into the office with a whole new goal: to be fully pleasing to the Lord in my work.

How about you? Are you feeling unmotivated in your own work, whether it’s at the office or at home or somewhere in-between? If so, I’m praying the apostle Paul’s prayer for you and for me:

“And so . . . we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9–10).

We know His will. Among other things, God’s will is that,

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).

So how about it? Are you feeling unmotivated? How about working today for God’s praise?

What an honor, to work heartily for the One who sweat great drops of blood for us, so that we might one day soon enter into His rest and hear Him exclaim, “Well done!”

Pay Me In Praise, Please! was originally posted on TrueWoman.com. 

 

Whose Gifts Do You Qualify For?

Whose Gifts Do You Qualify For?

Do you know what Santa and the Christ of Christmas have in common?

Both only give gifts to a certain kind of person. But that’s where their similarities end! Truth is, Santa and Christ couldn’t be more different.

Watch this video to find out whose gifts you qualify for: Santa’s . . . or Christ’s.

Whose Gifts Do You Qualify For?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Are You Really His? The Proof Is in Your Words.

Are You Really His? The Proof Is in Your Words.

For the past three weeks we’ve been talking about words, words, words. Is all this talk just a good suggestion?

Nope, it’s a lot more serious than that. Turns out your future is at stake, according to Jesus:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36–37).

Umm, question! Doesn’t that sound like we’re working our way to heaven?

Nope. We’d never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. It’s just that our words reveal our hearts like a thermometer reveals a fever or snow reveals cold.

Our words clearly show our true heart condition. God doesn’t miss a thing, and He says we’ll give an account to Him one day soon of every single word we ever spoke (gulp!). I’m gonna guess that also includes words we type, text, etc.

Like I said a couple weeks ago, we all desperately need a heart transplant (because our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem).

But how? Do you have to fill out a bunch of paperwork? Get stuck on a waiting list for years? Save up thousands of dollars?

Nope! God wants to give you a new heart. His heart.

When you confess to God the sin in your heart and ask Him to give you a new one, He will generously give you His Holy Spirit. And it won’t cost you a penny; it’s a gift! It wasn’t free for the Son of God, mind you; it cost Him His life. But it’s free for you.

Check out His promise in Ezekiel 36:26–29:

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. . . . You shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.”

By the way, this isn’t a get-out-of-hell-free-and-then-live-any-way-you-want card. If you really understand your need for a heart transplant and God’s crazy incredible grace in giving one to you, you will be forever changed.

And the proof will be in your new words.

You’ll begin to serve a new Master now with every single word you speak. He’ll own your tongue, your body, your life.

If you know you’ve never truly received a heart transplant, would you agree with God about the condition of your wicked heart and ask Him to replace it with His righteous one? If so, He’ll do it immediately!

If, on the other hand, you’ve had a heart transplant but when you take the Are Your Words Nasty or Nice? quiz you still see sin coming out of your mouth, would you:

  1. Confess to God the big ways you’re sinning with your mouth and choose to turn from them.
  2. Ask God how you can begin to store up good treasures in your heart by practicing the opposite of that sinful tendency.For example, if you struggle with lying, ask the person for forgiveness each time you lie to them. Do this until you begin to speak only the truth.Or if you regularly tear others down—even just in your thoughts—begin to intentionally encourage those people.
  3. Share your top struggles and commitments with a friend for prayer and accountability.

Sound like a plan?

Thanks for tracking with me through this series. I’d love to hear what God showed you and how you responded to Him!
Are You Really His? The Proof Is in Your Words” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?

Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?

I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples . . . it’s one of the main perks of living in Michigan—they grow some mean fruit here!

In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (v. 33).

(This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right . . . by its apples!) Jesus continues,

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).

(Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.”) Jesus goes on to explain,

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).

Let’s break that down from the top.

Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.

Hockey Puck Apples

Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.

Ta-da!

From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close! And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.

Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.

We Need a Heart Transplant

But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,

“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.

Jeremiah 17:9 says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the very core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)

We’re told that our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.

Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves . . . or garbage dumps. Each of us can only “bring forth”—fling out—whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).

So I need to ask . . . what are your words telling you about your heart?

Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant!
Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Sympathy . . . or Superiority?

Sympathy . . . or Superiority?

Recently I got an email from a young girl asking for my advice. I chuckled inwardly when I read it because it seemed so juvenile. Oh to have problems like that again I thought.

God Exposes My Superiority Complex

I was convicted of my superiority when I read Hebrews 4:14–16:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

These verses encourage us to run toward God’s throne of grace with confidence. Why? Because He’s a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses.

God’s Shocking Sympathy

He sympathizes because He’s been there, too. He willingly laid His position aside (as the King of Kings so high, high above us) and became one of us. Actually, He became a servant to us. He spent time with us, listened to us, taught us, washed our dirty feet (and our dirty hearts), and healed us.

And while He was with us, hell threw every temptation it had to offer directly His way. Hebrews 4:15 tells us Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

What does that have to do with me and my big, fat superiority? Everything.

In the past, I’ve been tempted just like that young girl. But I sinned in that temptation. Sympathy should come easy for me, then, right?

Jesus, too, was tempted just like that young girl was. Like I was. But He didn’t sin in that temptation. If the same were true for me, I’d really feel superior. Not Him, though. He still sympathizes with our weaknesses, in spite of His perfect record of success.

Turning From Superiority to Sympathy

How quickly I forget that I’m a recipient of His grace. I’ve made it out of that pit—not on my own—but only ’cause Jesus entered my pit for me so I might stand on His shoulders and climb out.

Shame on me for thinking myself superior to any person because His grace has carried me past a particular struggle. Oh for His sympathy in place of my superiority.

Prayers Welcome

Would you pray for me in this? As you can see, I’m a girl who’s still in process, just like you. Good thing for me, Jesus sympathizes with my superiority in spite of His perfect humility.

How about you? Maybe you don’t have girls emailing you for advice about a past struggle. But have you secretly thought you were better than others because you weren’t tempted by what tempted them?

Do you ever chalk up other girls’ problems as just silly drama compared to the challenges you face? Where do you see superiority popping up in your life? And how might Jesus’ sympathy for you change the way you view others’ struggles?

Sympathy…or Superiority?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.