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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.

When You Break Up . . . And The Shame Floods In

In just over three weeks you’ll get the inside scoop on my relationships with guys in Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. There’s one story you won’t read in it, though, because it’s super fresh.

After I wrote Confessions, I began to date an incredibly godly man . . . and then I broke up with him about a month ago. Since then, I’ve experienced a whole lot of shame and guilt for not being more “spiritual,” for woman with bouquetnot having been satisfied with a godly man. What more could a girl ask for?

The messages I’ve picked up from the Christian world have taunted me. Find a godly man and marry him is the message I’ve heard loud and clear. He won’t be perfect; you’re not perfect; just get married. I’ve nodded my head and begged God to help me value the things He values.

But at the end of the day there was no peace, no joy in moving forward—only heaviness and tears. And so I said goodbye, and then the shame came.

Last week I realized why, at least in part. I’ve grown up knowing that Jeremiah 17:9 is true:

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

If I can’t trust my heart, if I can’t know my heart, how can I make good decisions?

At the same time . . . hasn’t God given me a new heart? Removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh? Hasn’t He made all things new, including my heart? Doesn’t Jesus Christ now live in my heart through faith?

And if God can turn the king’s heart—the most powerful man in the land—wherever He wants, can’t He turn my heart too? Won’t He do the same for me, His daughter, who longs to know and do His will?

So I will continue to ask and trust God to turn my heart wherever He wants. And when the guilt and shame and self-loathing threaten to beat me up, I will rest in 1 John 3:20:

Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

It’s true that left to myself, I can’t trust my heart. But I can trust the God who is greater than my heart . . . and I can trust Him with my heart.

How is God asking you to trust Him with your heart today?

When You Break Up . . . And The Shame Floods In” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.