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Six Questions to Diagnose Subtle Gossip

Six Questions to Diagnose Subtle Gossip

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.” More

When Your Heart Refuses to Let Him Go

When Your Heart Refuses to Let Him Go

“Let him go. Move on, already,” your friends insist. “You should be over him by now.” After all, it has been months. Maybe even 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. More

3 Epic Reasons to Encourage Others

3 Epic Reasons to Encourage Others

“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Today I want to offer three reasons to encourage others.

1. The “God of encouragement” made you in His image.

He intended for you to reflect Him to the world around you:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:5).

What’s holding you back from imitating and “imaging” your Father, the God of encouragement?

2. Your encouragement is someone’s lifeline today.

Everyone needs encouragement—even leaders. The apostle Paul—the same guy who wrote at least thirteen books of the New Testament—wrote of a time he was desperately in need of encouragement:

“When we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more” (2 Cor. 7:5–7).

Who do you know who could use a good dose of encouragement right about now?

3. You have real perspective and hope to offer.

It’s too easy in this dark world to start living like Jesus is just a fanciful idea rather than our soon-to-appear King. The end is in sight. The best is yet to come. That ought to change the way we think and live right now. That’s why, for ten whole verses, Paul reminds believers that Jesus is coming back soon. He concludes,

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).

How could the truth that Jesus is returning soon encourage your friend in what they’re facing right now?

I’d love to hear your answers to these three questions. Then, check back next week for ideas of specific ways to encourage others.

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. 

Authority Is Not a Bad Word

Authority Is Not a Bad Word

Let me guess. You can’t wait ’til your parents bug off and get out of your business. I felt the same way when I was your age.

But I didn’t realize then that this authority thing never ends:

  • You go to college, and you’re under your professors’ authority.
  • You get a job, and your boss tells you what to do.
  • You marry, and your husband leads you (Eph. 5:23–24).
  • There are traffic laws to obey and consequences if you don’t.

Since that fateful day centuries ago when Adam and Eve decided God couldn’t tell them what to do, we’ve all been bucking authority.

Authority is as much a part of life as sunlight or toasted wholegrain bread. That’s because God has all authority (the right to control and command), and He’s the One who established human authorities:

There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Rom. 13:1–2).

Anyone else less than happy about this whole authority idea? Of course you are. Since that fateful day centuries ago when Adam and Eve decided God couldn’t tell them what to do, we’ve all been bucking authority. Including me.

Months ago I was invited to speak at a Christian school’s Purity Week in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I forwarded the invitation to my work supervisors and waited and waited and waited. When I finally received their answer, I wasn’t pleased.

They were thrilled for me to go, but they didn’t want me to travel by myself. This wasn’t easy to hear for a “big girl” like me who can take care of herself just fine, thank you very much.

I appealed, explaining that my hosts would pick me up at the airport, but my employers stuck to their guns.

It looked like I might not be able to go to Brazil. My hosts said they could only pay for an additional ticket if I could find another speaker.

I tried. No one could come.

Until one day I thought of a perfect fit. After several days of prayer, this speaker agreed to travel with me.

With God at the helm, authority is just another layer of His providence and protection.

And then, finally, it all made beautiful sense. God had worked through my authorities in order to send not only me, but another Spirit-filled speaker to Brazil. As a result, His kingdom work was at least doubled—maybe more.

And in the process, I was reminded of an important lesson: Authority is not something to be bucked; authority is not a bad word. With God at the helm, authority is just another layer of His providence and protection. In fact, He works out all His purposes through authorities.

How about you? Are you bucking authority, or do you trust God enough to submit to the authorities He has placed over you at this time in your life? How can you actively choose to submit to your authorities today?

Authority Is Not a Bad Word was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

When a Fantasy Romance Seems So Much Better Than a Real One

When a Fantasy Romance Seems So Much Better Than a Real One

I’ve been dating an amazing man for several months now, and until recently, I’ve not enjoyed it.

Let me fill you in on some background info before I tell you more:

  • Before my boyfriend came into my life, I’d pretty much learned (by God’s grace) how to live the single life with contentment.
  • My boyfriend built a solid friendship with me for over four months before we began dating.
  • As soon as we started dating, though, I didn’t value our friendship. I expected non-stop romance now.

Romance Me Now

For most of my life I’d observed dating relationships in romance novels and watched them unfold on the screen. As a result, I expected to be fawned over and hotly pursued from my boyfriend’s first admission of liking me. Here’s a peek into one of my journal entries,

I thought dating would be all excitement and fireworks and distraction and butterflies in my stomach 24/7. (Thankfully it’s not, because then I’d really get nothing done.) Sometimes it is exciting, but most of the time it’s simply comfortable and nice. It feels like real, everyday life instead of the stuff fairy tales are made of.

Suddenly I had a real, flesh-and-blood relationship, and I found myself mourning the loss of my long-anticipated fairy tale fantasy.

Who Says Fairy Tales Are Better?

One night, my boyfriend and I were having a playful conversation that opened my eyes to the fact that fairy tale fantasies aren’t necessarily better than real life. It went something like this:

Me: And then, after getting married on the beach, I’ll ride my dolphin off into the sunset and live happily ever.

My boyfriend: That would put you in shark-infested waters in the middle of the night. (He’s so smart like that.)

Hmmm, I thought, maybe—just maybe—fairy tales aren’t so wonderful, after all.

Meet Prince Charming

A couple months ago, my boyfriend and I sought counsel from a wise elder in his church. After hearing the ins and outs of our relationship, this man spoke words I will never forget,

What I see when I look at you two is two young people who love Christ, understand each other’s shortcomings, have been honest about them, and are still willing to love the other.

That’s more to build on than, “When I look in his eyes, I see stars, and there’s this feeling in my tummy.” That may happen too. But long term, you want a more realistic picture of what you really need. Prince Charming is the grace of God ministering to your area of brokenness.

Oh, how grateful I am for my Prince Charming. How relieved I am that I chose to stick with this real-life relationship rather than rejecting it for some unrealistic, fairy-tale fantasy in my head.

And who knew: the romance has developed naturally over time, rather than hitting like a ton of bricks from day one like I expected.

How about you? Have you thought about what expectations you might have for a future dating relationship? Where are these expectations coming from: God’s Word or the culture?

When a Fantasy Romance Seems So Much Better Than a Real One” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Will You Get a Divorce Someday?

Will You Get a Divorce Someday?

You probably know someone who’s divorced. Maybe an aunt or uncle, one of the leaders in your church, or your own parents. If so, I’m so very, very sorry for the pain it’s caused—and maybe still is causing—you. With divorce so common, I wonder, What’s to keep you from heading down that same road someday? My desire in writing this post is to save your marriage before you even meet your future husband. More

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.

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Friends (Don’t) Like God

5 Ways to Make Sure Your Friends (Don’t) Like God

How do I get my friends that never talk about God to actually like Him? That’s what one of you asked me recently.

Well, ultimately you can’t make anyone like God. But there are some things you can do along the way that will definitely help . . . or hurt. Here are five ways you can help your friends not like God.

  1. Don’t enjoy God yourself.
    You can’t help but talk about what you enjoy. So don’t spend any time with Him, just you and Him. And by all means, don’t enjoy Him! Then you might not be able to contain your excitement—you might spill the latest thing you’ve been admiring about Him—and your friends might actually get excited about God, too.
  2. Don’t live what you claim to believe.
    Embrace Jesus as your Savior but not your Lord. It doesn’t really matter that you follow and obey Him each day. I mean, He shouldn’t mess up your life or plans or have a say over every area of your life. That would be too . . . radical, don’t you think?
  3. Don’t share the Good News with your friend.
    There are a whole heap of reasons for this. It might make the conversation weird. You might stutter and stumble over your words. Surely your friend wouldn’t be interested! And what if it ruined your friendship? You might miss out on a future opportunity to share the Good News with her.
  4. Only share the gospel once, but expect your friend to trust in Christ immediately.
    Never mind the fact that God is a patient God or that you and I had to hear the gospel countless times; this is different. Your friend really should just get it! Besides, if you’ve told him or her once, you’ve done your job, right?
  5. Never seek to understand.
    Don’t ask your friend questions; don’t seek to understand what he or she has been told about God, or if they even believe He exists at all. Just preach at your friend. Act as if you have all the answers. I mean, you basically do, right? Why bother asking questions like Jesus did? He was God—you’re not. Just try to impress them with all your knowledge.

Of course I’m saying this tongue in cheek, since you and I actually want our friends to like God. In fact, we want them to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength! But sometimes we put obstacles in their way.

Have you ever done any of this? If so, what do you relate to? And more importantly, what can you do today to share the Good News with your friend in a way that will possibly help them almost . . . like God?
5 Ways to Make Sure Your Friends (Don’t) Like God” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

More Than a Misfit

 

More Than a Misfit

 

Did you know there’s a story of a runaway slave in the Bible? 

Here’s the backstory. Philemon once owned a slave named Onesimus. That is, until Onesimus ran away.

But in God’s sovereignty, Onesimus crossed paths with Paul and came to believe in Paul’s Jesus. Onesimus was then a huge help to Paul, but Paul didn’t feel okay partnering in the gospel with Onesimus without Philemon knowing about it. So Paul wrote Phil a letter.

In it, he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back. But not as a bondservant. He asks Philemon to consider him as "more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother." Now that Onesimus has put his faith in Jesus, they belong to the same family. God is their Father, and they are now brothers.

This would’ve been a crazy news flash for Philemon, almost too much to take in without sitting down. Paul was telling Philemon that his slave, Onesimus, was no longer a second-class citizen. Even though they ran in different circles and seemed to have almost nothing in common, and even though Philemon may have thought he was much better than Onesimus, they were actually equals at the cross. The gospel tore down every barrier that separated them. Jesus welcomed them both into the family of God, so they were now brothers in Christ—family.

Reminds me of Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (emphasis added).

We’re not told how the story ends, only that Paul is confident Philemon will obey him and will view Onesimus as more than.

And that’s where you and I come in. I bet you don’t own slaves, but you do know misfits. People we view that way, anyway.

  • Maybe you view that girl at youth group—the one with the lip ring—as a misfit. Or maybe you view that girl without piercings as a misfit. But have you ever stopped and thought of her as more than a misfit . . . as your sister in Christ?
  • Maybe you refuse to even make eye contact with that guy who smells like he sleeps in a trash can. But do you realize he’s more than a misfit . . . he’s your brother in Christ?
  • Maybe you make fun of those quiet sisters with the long skirts and braids. Or maybe you look down on those girls wearing the tight skinny jeans. But do you receive them as your sisters in Christ?

Just because they look or smell or act differently than you, do you really believe God loves you more because you perceive yourself as more "normal" on the outside?

Or are you flat-out stunned that God would pick you up out of the trash heap of sin, clean you inside and out—even your heart—and open wide His arms to you? Cause He did that for you. And for them.

They are so much more than a misfit . . .

FYI: This post was inspired by a sermon Brad Neese preached. I didn’t have the privilege of hearing it, but I heard about it from those who did.

More Than a Misfit” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.