It can be a bit shocking to our ears to hear that favoritism is a sin. We tend to play favorites regularly and almost subconsciously:
- Sizing others up
- Comparing each other against worldly standards
- Asking, “What’s in this relationship for me?”
It can be a bit shocking to our ears to hear that favoritism is a sin. We tend to play favorites regularly and almost subconsciously:
Relational conflict has dogged me recently, in spite of the fact that I’d naturally rather offer up a limb than experience—or inadvertently cause—conflict.
When someone accused me of sin, I prayed, “Lord, don’t let me flatter myself in my own eyes that my iniquity cannot be found out and hated” (Ps. 36:2). I know I’m stained with sin, but I couldn’t see my specific sin in this particular situation.
But then, through Romans 5:3–4, God called me to get off my knees, climb out of the weeds, and look at the bigger picture:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.
Hadn’t I just bemoaned to a friend that I had no perseverance? I realized this after a difficult week with my husband. He was depressed, and I took it all personally and acted desperately. My friend’s response was enlightening: “Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve only been married two-and-a-half years. You haven’t had enough hardships to grow that perseverance in you.”
Oh, right. Perseverance is produced through suffering.
Do you want the peace and fortitude you see that woman exhibiting in the midst of chemo? Do you long to withstand raging winds like that flexible palm tree? The only way to grow this kind of perseverance is through accepting the suffering God sends your way. How thankful I am for John Calvin pointing me back to God’s providence:
The Lord has willed it; therefore it must be borne, not only because one may not contend against it, but also because he wills nothing but what is just and expedient. To sum this up: when we are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation.
Today I’m writing over at TrueWoman.com. To read more about how relational conflict also produces character and hope, click here. More than that, though, I discovered that God uses these conflicts to draw us back to Himself, our great and only Good. This is the best gift of all. More on that too over at TrueWoman.com.
I want to invite you to join me tonight (Tuesday, July 31) for a special event. Through my work with Revive Our Hearts, I’ll be leading a six-week online study on Abigail: Living with the Difficult People in Your Life. If relational conflict is part of your life right now, I’d love to have you join in at 7 p.m. ET. You can catch all the details here, and this is where you’ll go to watch the Live broadcast at 7 p.m. ET. Hope to see you there!
PS: If you missed the Live video, you can still watch it here.
Do you feel inadequate to help teens in your life? Maybe you think you need a crash course in emojis as well as an active Snapchat presence before you can influence them for good.
Maybe you’ve never gotten too close to teens because you’ve been afraid you wouldn’t know how to answer their questions or deal with their needs. Or maybe you’ve barraged them with Bible verses, but woken the next morning wondering, Did I really help them? Were my comments even relevant, or did I just heave a heavy burden on their back?
In one sense it’s not a bad place to be, realizing you have nothing to offer unless God works in their lives. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” You and I will always be insufficient this side of heaven.
But today, I hope to point you in the direction you need to head in order to be able to help teens with anything and everything. I’m not saying there’s no room for a varied education—I love to learn!—but if I could advise you, I’d tell you to learn one subject inside and out. I’d encourage you to learn to apply it from every angle to any person’s life situation.
Are you ready? It’s the gospel that your teen needs—yes, for salvation (Rom. 1:16), but also for life. He or she needs you to help them see how Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection has everything to do with their Friday nights and Monday mornings . . . and everything in-between.
How do I know this? Because Scripture says so. Check out Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:1–2:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Did you catch that? These people received the gospel by faith (in the past), they’re standing firmly in it (in the present), and they’re being saved by it (in the present and in the future).
What is this gospel which is saving them? Paul continues:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (vv. 3–4).
“But Paula,” you protest, “if everything my teen needs (and everything I need) is found in the gospel, then why is it so tough to make that connection and to apply it to everyday situations?”
I think it’s because we don’t fully grasp the gospel’s significance and outcomes for our own lives. Also, it’s easier to deal on the moral, what-I-can-see-with-my-eyes level. Connecting the dots to how teens need the gospel means we must want more than just outward conformity.
I wonder . . . do we? Do we really want their hearts to be captured by God, or are we just after outward conformity to rules that make us feel comfortable when they’re abided by?
If you want the former (and oh, how I hope you do!), you have to get to the heart behind why they’re doing what they’re doing. The bad news is this will take longer. It’s not as easy as just saying, “Stop it!” or “Fix it!” You have to dig deeper to root motives.
But the good news is when you apply the gospel to heart issues, it has the potential to bring about real, lasting change from the inside out. So how can you begin?
Here are four tips for you as you seek to apply the gospel to teens’ lives (or anyone, for that matter).
Click over to TrueWoman.com, and practice applying the gospel to a specific teen’s struggle.
No one had to teach me how to lie; I was spinning the truth almost as soon as I learned to talk. It came naturally, as you can see from this funny example my mom journaled about when I was just three years old:
Paula came to me today with diaper rash cream all over her hands and said, “The top came off.” She had spread it on the bottoms of two cloth clowns and put blankets over their bottoms (diapers, you know).
It’s a humorous story, but bending the truth—no matter how young we are—is never cute or innocent. We all have plenty of experience with lying, though. It’s human nature to cover up and cast ourselves in the best light whenever we think we might get into trouble. We’ve been doing that ever since Adam and Eve played the first blame-shifting game in the Garden.
So if lying comes almost as naturally as breathing to us since our first parents’ (Adam and Eve’s) fall into sin, how can we ever tell the truth? Or how about . . . what should motivate us to always tell the truth?
Several years ago right here on this blog, I asked, “What motivates you not to lie?” Many of you responded like this girl:
You know, the whole “don’t lie” thing. God doesn’t want me to lie. Why would I flat out disobey Him in something like that?
You ready? Here are two reasons:
Did you know that God’s commands reflect His character?
When God tells you and me not to lie, it’s because God never lies. In fact, He cannot lie. Here are just a couple verses that point this out:
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Num. 23:19).
. . . God, who never lies . . . (Titus 1:2).
Why can’t God lie? Because God is true. That’s just who He is. In fact, Jesus said that He Himself is truth:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, emphasis added).
You may have had people break your trust right and left. You might wonder if you can ever trust anyone again. But you never have to wonder when reading God’s words if He is exaggerating a bit, if He is stretching the truth, if He is being insincere, or if He will go back on His word. God never lies; He always keeps His promises.
But what does this truth about God have to do with us not lying? Well, because . . .
God cannot lie, and we are made in God’s image. Our purpose is to show the world the truth about who God is and what He is like:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26–27).
When we lie, we misrepresent Him and act more like Satan:
“He [Satan] . . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, emphasis added).
God has created us in His image. We are made to represent and image Him rightly to the world around us.
Today I’m blogging over at LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. Click here to continue reading a couple practical steps about how to stop lying and start loving truth.
Have you lost your parents’ trust? It’s a crummy place to be, I know. I lost my parents’ trust my eighth grade year, and it felt like it took eons to regain it.
That summer, my family moved to a different state, and soon I started attending a new school. I felt like I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to choosing wise friends (there were only fourteen students in my whole grade!). It wasn’t long before my new friends were encouraging me to date a guy I liked behind my parents’ backs. I was all too happy to listen to them. Life was going well until . . .
One horrible, rotten day, a letter was delivered to our home (yep, that was before Facebook!). A friend from my old school had written me. But instead of addressing the envelope to “Paula Hendricks,” she wrote my nickname on the front. When my parents saw the letter, they didn’t know who it was for. So they opened it. And this is what they saw: “I can’t believe you’re dating Neil behind your parents’ backs!” (Busted!)
That was probably the first seed of distrust that was (rightfully) planted in my parents’ hearts. And then guess what they went and did? They prayed that God would help them find out whenever I was covering up my sin. He seemed to answer their prayer time and time again. It wasn’t long before they knew I couldn’t be trusted.
As much as I hated my parents at the time for reading my mail and being so strict, looking back I have to say they were right to not trust me. I was a deceiver. I lied. A lot.
I wonder if you can relate. Have you given your parents (or others) any valid reason not to trust you? Are you one person around them and a different person entirely when you think they’re not looking?
Are you always wondering if you’ll be found out? And then when you are, do you know the feeling of having the people closest to you not know if anything you say is true? We both know that’s not a fun way to live. So what can you do?
If you’re one of those girls who has been walking on eggshells around a couple of suspicious parents, here’s how you can regain their trust.
I’m writing over at LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com today. Click here to read how to regain your parents’ trust.
Then be sure to check back next month to learn why lying is such a big, hairy deal. ‘Cause believe it or not, we have a bigger issue than just regaining our parents’ trust. A much bigger issue . . .
If I have the story right, after my dad asked my mom out, she commented to a friend, “Why do the creepy guys always ask me out?” (Obviously she changed her mind about my dad not too long after that!)
Maybe you feel like my mom felt all those years ago. Why does it seem the guys you don’t like are always the ones pursuing you?
I can’t answer that question for you (except to assume that you’re lovely, and they’re smart enough to realize it!). Instead, may I throw an important question out there?
When a “creepy guy” asks you out, how can you turn him down in a way that glorifies God? More specifically, how can you love a guy well while turning him down?
I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at a few ways you can love him before, when, and after you turn him down.
Today I’m writing over on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. To read about how to love him after you turn him down, click here.
Do I care enough about the next generation—and ultimately God’s glory—to fight for them even when there’s nothing in it for me?
This is the question Hezekiah and Josiah’s stories have me asking myself.
Just as a little refresher: Hezekiah and Josiah were both kings of Judah. Hezekiah was crowned in 715 B.C.; Josiah began to reign seventy-five years later in 640 B.C. Overall, the Bible tells us they were both good kings (see 2 Kings 18:1–8 and 22:1–2).
But as I read through their stories recently, I stumbled across a troubling difference between these two men.
The story goes like this. One day, God sent the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah to tell him that the people of Judah would be taken captive to Babylon because of their sin and rebellion. God let Hezekiah know that even some of his own sons would be taken captive. And this was Hezekiah’s response:
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19, emphasis added).
Hezekiah was fine hearing this bad news, because it didn’t impact him personally. How often do I have the same reaction? I hear a story or encounter a need, and I shrug my shoulders. After all, I’m busy, and thankfully that situation doesn’t impact me. . . . Or does it? Is it my little life and kingdom I’m living for . . . or the advancement of God’s kingdom?
I relate far too well with Hezekiah’s standoffishness. But then I read of Josiah’s very different response.
King Josiah’s challenge to me picks up when he was just twenty-six. He sent a few men to the temple of God on a specific mission. While there, these men stumbled across a copy of the Book of the Law. They came back and read the book to Josiah, and when he heard it, he tore his clothes and wept before God. He then sent men to inquire of the Lord what would happen, because Josiah knew the people of Judah hadn’t been obeying God’s law.
So these men went to Huldah the prophetess, and she told them that God would indeed bring disaster on these people, because they had forsaken God and made offerings to other false gods. “But,” she continued, “tell King Josiah this:”
“Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place” (2 Kings 22:18–20, emphasis added).
Like Hezekiah, Josiah heard of Judah’s soon demise and was also assured that this would happen after his death. But even though it wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah instantly got to work.
Even though captivity wouldn’t impact him personally, Josiah fought for the next generation. Since captivity was punishment for Judah’s sin, Josiah did everything in his power to help the people return to God.
Josiah’s story convicts me big time. Do I really care about the next generation, even when what happens to them won’t impact me personally? For starters, do I know the names of the children and teens in my local church? Am I aware of what is going on in their lives? If not, who can I deliberately reach out to this next Sunday?
Do I long for God’s glory to be seen in the next generation? Do I care that the next generation obeys God and doesn’t worship false gods? Is there someone I could begin to invest in and build a relationship with—even if it’s just to invite them to come with me when I run errands next?
How about you? Do you have the same heart attitude as Hezekiah . . . or as Josiah? What action can you begin to take today to get to work for the next generation?
Fighting for the Next Generation Matters was originally posted on ReviveOurHearts.com.
I was moving fast when my friend texted me her grievances against another. Company was due to arrive within the hour, and everything seemed to be happening at once. Between combining the liquid mixture for the corn muffins and texting my hubby about what I needed him to pick up from the store, I texted some hard truth to my friend in response to her message.
Then, with messy hands, I forwarded my response to three people who were aware of the situation and who were praying for my friend. I wrote, “Just sent this to our friend. Please pray. Her heart is so hard.”
Only I accidentally included my friend in the group text. Ugh, ugh, double ugh.
Yes, I had been growing increasingly concerned for her, but after this incident, I realized it would have been best to share my concern with just her and God. Instead, I hurt her deeply. Where did I go wrong?
As I asked God to change my heart and make me a more trustworthy friend, I set a few boundaries in place.
1. I resolved not to share prayer requests about anyone other than myself, unless I’ve explicitly asked their permission.
Proverbs 11:13 says, “Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.”
Someone who reveals another’s secrets is a slanderer, according to the Bible. The King James calls such a person a “talebearer.” We probably don’t think of prayer requests as “bearing tales,” but if we dropped the “Please pray for so-and-so,” would it look any different than talebearing? Let’s not use prayer as a way to gossip through the back door.
2. I resolve not to forward other’s messages to me (or my responses) without permission.
It’s way too easy in our connected world to share other people’s struggles with others. It often feels necessary, as we believe in the power of prayer. The more people praying, the better, right?
But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe, just maybe, you and I are using prayer as a thin guise for gossip, fear, frustration, and support.
3. I resolve to wait to share hard truth with others until I can talk in person or on the phone.
This requires slowing down. It requires not freaking out in the moment and thinking that a problem’s resolution depends on you and you alone. It requires boldness to address a problem without the protective wall of electronic text between you. And it requires crying out in deep dependence to the one and only Savior, rather than trying to do His work for Him, as if He’s on vacation.
What if we asked ourselves the following questions before sharing someone else’s business with others?
Oh, I know it’s easy to think our intentions are good. I thought that originally, too. But maybe we should distrust our intentions a bit more than we do. Even if our base intentions are good, we should always be on guard of having mixed motives. Love can often attach itself with the sinful desire to know other people’s stuff, to be “in the know,” or to feel puffed up that our lives aren’t so messy.
In my case, regardless of my original motives, I broke trust, and at that point, the only fitting response for me was one of repentance.
So that’s what I did. That evening after our company left, I called my friend and left a voicemail asking for forgiveness. I gave her space to call me when she was ready to talk. Eventually, she graciously forgave me, but because of the trust I damaged by sharing what was not mine to share, it will take time for her to be able to regard me as the fully faithful friend that I desire to be, with God’s help.
How about you? Will you strive to love faithfulness more than the pleasure of gossip? Will you join me in resolving to be oh-so-careful before we share about others?
Let us strive to be like the women recommended in 1 Timothy 3:11: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”
After all, we serve and represent the most trustworthy, faithful Friend of all.
“Let him go. Move on, already,” your friends tell you. “Like, yesterday. You should be over him by now!” After all, it has been months. Years.
But still, he haunts your thoughts—dropping by frequently, oblivious to the fact that he’s not welcome—threatening to sabotage not only your past but your present. Like a shackle attached to your ankle, you drag this dead hope of a relationship with you wherever you go.
You’re not the only one who can’t seem to stop looking back with longing. Over and over in the book of Numbers, God’s people, the Israelites, rebel against Him. They get hung up on their cravings, (“What I wouldn’t do right now for a leek!”) and wish for their past as slaves to Pharaoh. Here’s just one example of them looking wistfully over their shoulders:
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (Num. 14:1–4).
“Let us go back to Egypt”?! The Israelites had been enslaved in Egypt for 420 years. It had not been a vacation. There were bricks to be made and backs to be whipped and no relief in sight . . . until God intervened. He sent Moses to perform mighty acts and deliver His people from their hard labor and heavy burdens.
He then began to lead them to the Promised Land, the land He had promised their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In this particular passage above, they were poised to enter the Promised Land. Twelve spies had been sent to spy it out, and ten came back with a fearful report:
“The land . . . is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height . . . and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers” (13:32–33).
Two of the twelve spies, however, reported:
“The land . . . is an exceedingly good land. . . . Do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them” (14:7–9).
Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on.
But instead of believing the two spies—and ultimately believing God—the people of Israel chose fear over faith. They cried out with longing for the “good ol’ days” in slavery.
As a result of their unbelief, God destined them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness (one year for each day the spies spied out the Promised Land), and ensured their fears would become reality:
“What you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness . . . not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except [the two spies who gave the good report]. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in” (14:28–31).
This is more than just a Bible story. Did you know that 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that these accounts were written for us, for our instruction? I know your circumstances are different, but like the Israelites, do you believe God made a mistake? That God held out on you? Do you believe life would be better if only this guy had pursued you?
Are you obeying God’s command to avoid idolatry (1 Cor. 10:7)? My guess is that if you’re still living under the shadow of this relationship that didn’t materialize, you have most likely idolized this guy. Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.
Please don’t confuse love for lust, covetousness, and idolatry.
Repent of making the hope of this relationship your ultimate hope. Believe God and move forward under His leadership. He wants to bless you, if you will only trust His heart. He is drawing you away from the slavery of idolatry and covetousness and into the Promised Land of contentment as His treasured possession, living under His rule.
Stop looking back, and instead believe that your God is good—and that all He does is good—and move on. Move forward, and watch God bring you out into a broad, spacious place.
When Your Heart Refuses to Let Go was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
Do you know where your local post office is?
How about the cost of a stamp?
When’s the last time you mailed a handwritten letter to someone?
Today I want to challenge you to find your local post office and mail a handwritten letter to someone. (Sure, you can spray it with perfume for kicks if you want!)
Why do I think this is so important? Here are 3 Epic Reasons to Encourage Others. This is why it’s so important.
Last week I shared 4 Ways to Encourage Others Without Even Trying. Today, though, I want to encourage you to be extra intentional about encouraging someone through a handwritten letter. So here are ten steps to writing an encouraging letter:
It won’t happen otherwise. Choose a regular time to write a letter or two. It could be each morning after you spend time with God, or every Sunday afternoon, or at the beginning of each month. And don’t miss the biggies. Does anyone have a birthday this month? (Don’t forget Father’s Day is this Sunday!)
Who is currently going through a rough time? Who did something recently that meant a lot to you? Who can you thank? Who is on your heart today? Who needs Jesus?
Why do you want to write them a letter? Are you puffing them up in order to get something out of them? Or . . . Why do you not want to write a letter to them? Are you jealous of them? Confess your sinful motives to God, and ask Him to purify your heart.
Don’t just write a letter telling them that you will or you are praying for them—do it right then! There’s no greater, more powerful gift you can give someone than heartfelt, urgent prayer through Jesus to the Father.
Even let them know how you prayed for them. Something like, “I prayed that God would help you believe truth during this time, and hope in Him alone . . .”
So you appreciate them. But what specifically do you appreciate about them? So you’re grateful for them. Why? If they’re a believer, where do you see God’s grace in their life? How specifically do you see them looking more like Christ on a daily basis?
Romans 15:4 tells us that, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” As believers in Christ, we—of all people—can offer lasting encouragement and hope. Don’t preach, but do point them to Christ and His promises. You don’t have to include a litany of verses; I’ve found that one power-packed verse goes a long way (Prov. 25:11).
If your letter is pages and pages long, most people won’t read it. Short and sweet all the way, baby!
This isn’t necessary, but it’s definitely extra special. (FWIW: I usually write or type a rough draft ahead of time, so the actual card isn’t a mess.)
If you don’t have the money, lined paper will do just fine. But if you can invest a few extra bucks into cards, it will go a long way in making others feel loved.
I buy the value pack of blank cards from Hobby Lobby and glue the fronts of cards people have given me onto them (I know, I know, just call me el cheapo!).
I like to keep a basket of cards, paper, envelopes, pens, scissors, and glue on hand so I can whip out a card on a moment’s notice. You might want to do the same.
Are you available to share God’s encouragement with others who desperately need it?
But don’t worry if you’re not artsy. This isn’t about making you look good. It doesn’t matter if your card is Pinterest-worthy. The main thing is: Are you available to share God’s encouragement with others who desperately need it?
Writing a letter isn’t the only way to encourage someone. But it sure is a great way to put into practice Philippians 2:1–5,
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
At the beginning of this post, I asked if you knew where your local post office is. If not, you can find the nearest location here. And if you want to know how much a stamp costs, learn the answer here. Happy letter writing!
10 Steps to Writing an Encouraging Letter was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.