Here’s the thing, though. That brother or sister of yours is handcrafted by God and, believe it or not, will one day probably be one of your best friends.
In fact, did you know that the Bible says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17)? Part of the reason God gave you siblings is so that you would have someone to walk through the peaks and valleys of life with.
High school and college friends will move far away, but you’ll keep seeing your family on birthdays and holidays. Why not begin to not just survive in the same house without killing them, but actually befriend them? (By the way, this applies to your parents as well as your siblings.)
2) At church. So they’re different from you, those people you sit next to Sunday after Sunday. Fact is, you’ll be spending a lot more than holidays and birthdays with them—you’ll be living with them forever. In Christ they’re family now—a tighter bond even than your own flesh-and-blood relatives.
Forever is a long time. Why not learn how to get along with them now? I wish I’d understood years ago that friends don’t have to be your age. Read “An Unlikely Friendship” to hear about a dear friend of mine who is thirty (yes, thirty) years older than me.
PS: Did you know you should seek out friends who are older than you to learn from (Titus 2:3–5)? Also, don’t forget that you’re an “older woman” to someone. Do you have any younger friends who can learn from your example?
3) In the Book. Proverbs 7:4 tells us to “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend.” The Word of Truth (another name for the Bible) is chock full of wisdom. Consider it your dear friend, and it will lead you well. Are you spending time with and listening to this friend?
4) In God. Did you know that God has friends?! He called Abraham His friend (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8), and He talked with Moses face to face, the way good friends talk (Ex. 33:11). Abraham and Moses weren’t His only friends. You can be His friend, too!
Believe in the One who sacrificed more at the cross for you than any friend ever will, and you will find Him to be the best friend you’ll ever know.
Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). And what does He command?
The secret is found in James 2:23: “‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.” Believe in the One who sacrificed more at the cross for you than any friend ever will, and you will find Him to be the best friend you’ll ever know. He will never leave you, never let you down, never stop loving you.
I’d love to hear from you. Which of these four friends are friends of yours?
I wish you could meet my sister. In addition to being a downright awesome friend and woman of God, she has a great sense of humor. Growing up, she’d often ask outlandish questions like:
Would you rather only eat green olives dipped in mayonnaise for the rest of your life, or would you rather never bathe or shower again?
Her questions were always so "out there." Both options seemed hilariously . . . horrible!
Today let’s play a more obvious version of "Would you rather." Here are four questions you shouldn’t even have to think twice about:
Would you rather:
Live in Ahwaz, Iran (the city filled with the dirtiest air in the world), or would you rather . . .
Live in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada (boasting some of the cleanest air you’ll find of any city in the world according to the World Health Organization)?
Would you rather:
Fill your Nalgene bottle with water from Lake Karachay in Russia (the world’s most polluted spot thanks to the Soviet Union dumping nuclear waste from their largest nuclear production facilities into the lake from 1951–1953), or would you rather . . .
God wants your money. But not for the reasons you think.
He’s not poor.
He’s not a mooch.
He’s not looking to take, take, take from you.
He’s not anti-money, and He doesn’t think the poor are more holy than the middle class.
Before I tell you why God wants your money, I need to back up.
Something is terribly, terribly wrong with the subject line of this post. Read it again. Did you catch it?
Nope, I didn’t misspell any words or use incorrect punctuation. I did make a wrong assumption, though.
As much as it feels like my money, God teaches that the money in my purse, the money in my bank account, that paycheck I just received . . . is actually His money. Here are just a couple places we learn this from God’s Word:
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Ps. 24:1, emphasis added).
If that’s not clear enough, how about this one from Haggai 2:8:
“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the LORD Almighty.
(I know you don’t buy things with silver or gold, but this passage is talking about currency. Substitute “silver” and “gold” with “dollars” and “cents.”)
Before we go any further, we need to ask God to reset our minds so we realize it’s not our money; it’s His money.
We don’t own the money stuffed away in our top dresser drawer; God has entrusted us with delivering His money to those who need it most.
Picture it like this: You buy a sweet gift for your friend’s birthday. Since she just moved across the country, you wrap it up and give it to the FedEx guy to deliver to her. But instead of delivering the package, he takes it home and breaks open the present for himself!
Obviously, this guy doesn’t understand his job. He’s just the delivery guy!
Did you know that you and I are like that FedEx employee? We don’t own the money stuffed away in our top dresser drawer; God has entrusted us with delivering His money to those who need it most.
Now that we’ve cleared that important misunderstanding up, let’s get back to the original question:
Why does God want my (ahem, His!) money?
First, though, I’d love to hear from you. Is this news that the money in your purse actually belongs to God? Or have you already been thinking and living like it’s His?
Crazy news flash for you . . . did you know you have up to 70,000 thoughts a day?! Researchers say most of us have between 45,000–51,000 thoughts a day, but it can be as many as 70,000!
Most of the battles you fight each day rage in the battleground of your mind. Here are just a few blog comments from this last week that reveal the mind battles you’re facing:
"I feel like I’m not worth as much as the pretty/skinny/athletic/cool girls." —Ella
"I had formed a habit of thinking I hate myself or I hate my life when things went badly." —Michelle
"Please pray for my stupid self." —Mist
"I struggle with lies like I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never be pretty enough, and Even if I become beautiful enough, people won’t love me for me." —Michelle
I think the apostle Paul knew what a battleground our minds are when he wrote to believers:
Take the helmet of salvation (Eph. 6:17).
Quick history lesson—back in the day, Roman soldiers wore heavy helmets that covered their cheeks, foreheads, neck, and ears so their enemy’s battle-axe wouldn’t send their head flying off. Think of the helmet of salvation like our modern-day football or motorcycle helmet—except much more beautiful.
Now obviously, you don’t need to put on the helmet of salvation in order to be saved, ’cause Paul wrote this to people who were already Christians. But you do need to put on the helmet of salvation in order to think true thoughts that line up with who you really are now in Christ.
Your thoughts matter—big time. In Romans 12:2 we’re told, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Your mind was never meant to control you—you were meant to control your mind! As you do, you will be transformed from the inside out.
So how are you to get the upper hand over your thoughts?
Thinking Brand-New Thoughts
The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5: "Take every thought captive to obey Christ." Warning—that’s a lot of hard, unending work! But it’s worth it, because the alternative isn’t pretty. Taking every thought captive to obey Christ means you’ll have to constantly monitor every thought to see if it passes the Philippians 4:8 test:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
If a thought doesn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test, rather than letting that thought captivate you, instantly capture it in your mind and turn it over to King Jesus. Then replace that stray thought with one that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any of those thoughts on my own. I have to borrow Christ’s thoughts by memorizing His Words so I can replace my thoughts with His.
Can I encourage you to do the same? Buy a spiral-bound, index-card notebook from Walmart, and write out verses you find most helpful. Or store them in your phone. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you get His words into you.
I encourage you to start with verses that talk about what all is included in the gift of salvation. Become a serious student of your salvation. (This is how you put on the helmet of salvation—by knowing and chewing on what Jesus has done for you and given to you.) What saved you? How do you know this? When God saved you, what benefits and lavish gifts did He give you? For a great place to start, read or listen to these forty-five gifts God gave you when you were saved.
If you’re in a relationship with Jesus, you now "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). Obviously that doesn’t mean you’re omniscient, that you know every single thing there is to know as God does. But it does mean your mind, which used to be hostile toward Him, can now understand, accept, and think on the things of God. Incredible!
So pick up that helmet of salvation and put it on. I want to see some helmet hair!
Then come back here and tell me about a mind battle you won this week. Let me know what thought you caught yourself thinking and how you beat that thought back by putting on the helmet of salvation and taking every thought captive to Christ.
The past couple months I’ve been learning how to acknowledge and live within my limitations. After all, God alone is infinite; I am not. Here are four truths I’ve been remembering and implementing in everyday life:
1. It’s okay to work at a less frenzied pace—and even take breaks!
I used to work straight through my eight-hour workday. I’d even take my laptop into the bathroom stall with me. I’m not kidding. Lunch would be inhaled at my computer. I worked at mach speed. Who knows, my coworkers may have even witnessed smoke coming out my ears!
Now, though, I’m joining the sane lunch group in the cafeteria. I’m getting up from my computer every hour or so for a game of Ping-Pong, a short walk, or a change of scenery. Breaks are important. In fact, Jesus had to tell His disciples to take breaks, too:
“And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31).
2. Everything doesn’t have to be done NOW.
Last week I picked up a prescription, dropped off my energy bill, and got my tire patched. I didn’t, however, make my Walmart returns, cash that check, or grocery shop (there was enough food in my fridge for at least a couple more days). On a whim, I stopped by the library on the way home and picked up a book a friend recommended. Progress!
The truth is I don’t have to run all my errands now. I don’t have to respond to all my emails now. The world won’t end if I don’t knock everything off my to-do list right now. In fact, it will be a whole lot better for me and others if I use that extra time to drive the speed limit back home rather than racing on to the next thing on my to-do list. Proverbs 19:2 warns,
“Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
3. I can and need to prioritize.
The way I used to live was based on the belief, When I get all my work done, then I’ll rest and play. What a fool I’ve been. My work will never be done, no matter how hard or fast I work. So I need to ask God to help me prioritize.
Jesus modeled this beautifully when He came to earth. As you know, He didn’t heal every sick person. There was so much He didn’t do in the world. But He did spend time with His Father seeking His priorities. That’s why Jesus was able to say at the end of His life on earth,
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
4. I can ask for help.
I’ve asked for help more in the past couple months than I have in . . . well, possibly my entire life. I think the breakthrough happened the night I asked a friend to drive me to my hair appointment because I just didn’t have the energy. Who asks someone to drive them to their hair appointment?! Girls like me who are willing to acknowledge when they’re feeling really weak, I guess.
I’ve been trying to implement this maxim, “If you don’t ask the answer is always no.” The other day I asked someone to shovel my snow, and they offered to do so for the rest of the winter! I’ve been so blessed and helped by sharing my needs with others. I dare you to try it, too. Warning, though, it will take a dose of humility to admit you can’t do it all on your own. Reminds me of Moses, actually,
“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You . . . will certainly wear yourself out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. . . . look for able men . . . and they will bear the burden with you’” (Ex. 18:17-23).
I hope these truths help you as much as they’ve been helping me. I’m curious, do you think you’re living within your limitations? How so?
Do you think of yourself as a strong or a weak woman?
Personally, I’ve counted myself a strong one.
I was the girl who ran around flexing her biceps, challenging boys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranging my heavy bedroom furniture all by myself.
I was the young woman who had a scheduled activity on her calendar every night of the week. I was the woman who wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I was the woman who always, always pushed through.
But then last month I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall,
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”
My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did.
I wasn’t so sure.
God, do You think of me as weak or strong? And how should I think of myself?
Taking Cues from a “Strong” Man and a “Weak” Man
I went to God’s Word for answers, starting with the strongest man I could think of: Samson. You know the beast—tearing a roaring lion to pieces with his bare hands, striking down 1,000 enemies with a donkey’s jawbone, pushing down a house killing 3,000 party-goers.
Here’s the surprising pattern I found. Just before Samson displays great strength, this is what happens just before:
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:6).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:19).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 15:14).
It was always God’s strength Samson displayed; never his own. God is the strong One. Even Samson was weak apart from God.
Then I re-read the familiar story of David and Goliath. Anyone observing the battle scene that day would’ve put their money on the intimidating war champion Goliath, not the young, inexperienced David. Goliath had complete confidence in his strength; David had complete confidence in his living God. And at the end of the short fight, David was the unlikely victor.
I Am Weak, but He Is Strong
Funny how many times I’ve gotten it mixed up. I’ve considered myself strong and believed God to be weak. Nothing could be further from the truth:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28, emphasis added).
God’s strength will never, ever give out.
Me on the other hand, I’m weak. My strength is finite.
What freedom that realization brings.
Strength comes when we first own up to our own weakness. (That’s ’cause we don’t rely on God when we consider ourselves strong.) But in our weakness, as we depend on our strong God, His strength flows through to us. Catch Paul’s personal testimony of this:
“We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8–10).
And then there’s my favorite passage from this past month,
“He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:29–31).
How is this strength-for-weakness exchange possible?
Strong Made Weak; Weak Made Strong
It’s all because the Strong One was made weak so we, the weak, could be made strong.
Check out this baffling verse:
“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25, emphasis added).
The weakness of God? But God isn’t weak!
Study the context, and you’ll see this verse refers to the cross. The world judges Jesus weak and pathetic, hanging there exposed and bleeding. “Weakness,” they spit.
But to us who are being saved, we gaze at the cross and celebrate. “Strength!” we shout.
God refuses to save Himself so He might save us. The Strong One is made weak so we, the weak, can be made strong.
What weakness can you boast about today? How might God want to showcase His strength through your particular weakness?
Hey, girls, I’ve missed you! Now you’ll know why I disappeared for a month—and why I’m so glad to be back with you.
This series on spiritual armor just got real personal.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been writing about how to fight our spiritual enemies or if it’s because I’ve been asking God to root out every bit of pride in me, but either way-this past month I felt shot at from every side.
A big part of the "attack" had to do with my health, including a visit to the emergency room, a terrible full-body rash (I’d share a picture, but then you’d never visit this blog again!), and terrifying insomnia (how is my body supposed to heal if I can’t sleep, I anxiously wondered as I tossed and turned night after night).
Satan really will use whatever circumstances he can to discourage and defeat us—even our health. A man named Job knows that even better than I do. It all started when Satan asked God for permission to attack Job’s health, swearing that Job would curse God if his health was compromised. But instead Job worshiped God.
In physical misery but tangible faith Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). And for the record, God didn’t kill Job; just the opposite! Read the end of Job’s story here.
There were times this past month I felt like Job and wondered if I would survive.
So rather than writing a theoretical post about the different pieces of the armor of God, I’m going to focus on one piece I used a lot this past month—the shield of faith. Turns out the armor of God isn’t just an interesting concept to toss around on the blog; it’s intensely personal and necessary for normal, everyday life. Ephesians 6:16 urges us:
In all circumstances take up the shield of FAITH, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (emphasis added).
Taking up the shield of faith is just a fancy, colorful way to say trust God.
For me it started with a choice to thank God for the hives, the trip to the emergency room, and the itchiness, even when I didn’t like or understand it. Lifting the shield of faith meant thanking Him—and believing—that this was His best for me. This was how I would learn to trust Him more, to depend on Him more, to experience His peace.
It meant thinking about His names as I lay in bed and asking Him to be that to me:
My Wonderful Counselor when I didn’t know which doctors to believe and which medical advice to take.
My Mighty God who is able to heal me.
My Everlasting Father who delights in me and protects me.
My Prince of Peace who can give peace even in the most frightening situations.
As I’d take medication or eat, I’d remind God that He’s my Healer (Ex. 15:26). I’d acknowledge that my trust was not ultimately in this medicine or food; I needed Him to heal me.
Five weeks later, I’m happy to report that my rash has now almost completely disappeared, and I’m sleeping some every night. And while Satan wanted to take me out through this difficult ordeal, God has used it to rescue me in ways I never dreamed possible. I could fill pages with how He has used it for good (well, I already have in my journal!), and I may share some of that with you in the future.
For now, though, I want to encourage you in your own difficult circumstances to lift up the shield of faith. Lean into God; rest your full weight on Him. This will protect you from the temptation to doubt His goodness, listen to Satan’s lies, and walk away from the One who has your back, who has your very best in mind.
God is for you. He is with you in the darkest, blackest night. Lift up your shield of faith, and lean into Him with a heart full of trust. He will not fail you. I promise. (Well actually, He promises.)
You should’ve seen it. This Sunday, the church gymnasium was transformed into the bustling city of Jerusalem around A.D. 30. After I’d joined the tribe of Ephraim and received a bag of denarii (Roman money), I sat down cross-legged in the temple, right in front of the veil leading to the Holy of Holies (where I never would have been allowed in real life).
That’s when little Sarah came over and squeezed herself onto my lap. Then, when the shofar blew signaling it was time to move on to the next station, Sarah slipped her little hand into mine as we walked a few steps to the synagogue. She sat in my lap again as we learned to sing the Shema in Hebrew and stayed close all morning as we went from booth to booth.
And then, while we were at the potter’s shop, I heard a shout, “It’s Jesus!” If I hadn’t already been told that the Sunday school teacher Chris was playing the part, I wouldn’t have recognized him with that wig of long, curly, dark hair. He slowly wove his way through the crowd of 400 people, hugging the children as he went.
Sarah pulled me forward, not content to watch from behind a wall of people. I let her pull me so far, and then I slowed, not wanting the adults to wonder why I was crowding Jesus and not letting others have their turn. But Sarah wouldn’t let up. I stopped, she strained. She pulled, I resisted. Finally, she dropped my hand and went around the mountain in the middle of the room so she could get to Jesus.
Sarah wasn’t the only child who did this. Instinctively, all the children wanted to get as close as they could to Jesus. Maybe that’s why Jesus told His perturbed disciples so many years ago,
“Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:16–17).
As I saw the difference between me and Sarah, I couldn’t help but wonder how close I would’ve tried to get to Jesus if I’d been alive when He walked this earth. Would I have been willing and desperate enough to cry out loudly with Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”—even when everyone around me was telling me to just be quiet? Or would I have been more like Nicodemus who came to Jesus under the cover of night so no one would see?
More importantly, how desperate am I today to get as close as possible to Jesus? Am I content to hang back and observe Him along with the grown-ups, or am I pressing forward with the children to stare up in wonder at Him?
I’m afraid I know the answer, and oh, how I long for that to change. So thank you, Sarah. You have no idea what you taught me this week. I want to be like you when I grow up.
PS: What do you think it looks like to want to get close to Jesus today?