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Straight to Scripture

Them’s Fightin’ Words!

 

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This morning my coworkers sat in a circle and shared a childhood adversity they had to overcome. Some were teased ’cause they were short; some were teased ’cause they were taller than the rest. More than one had to wear special orthopedic shoes that were UG-ly. One was bullied.

What do they all have in common? They were all wounded by fightin’ words. 

God’s "Fightin’ Words"

But these kinds of "fightin’ words" pale compared to the power of God’s "fightin’ words":

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

God’s "Fightin’ Words" for You

Did you know that God’s Word is like a sword? Ephesians 6:17 tells us what the sword is:

Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17, emphasis added).

This is no plastic kid’s sword! After watching Robin Hood this weekend, I was reminded that swords are meant to kill. Pastor John Piper says we use the sword of God’s Word to kill our fears and cravings.

Have you been treating God’s Word like a kid’s play sword or like the sharp, living sword it really is?

For example, he says when he craves some illicit sexual pleasure, the sword-swing he often uses is Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." He remembers how great it is to see God more clearly and how oppressive the aftertaste of sin is, and with that, "God has killed the conquering power of sin."

God’s "Fightin’ Words" for Others

You can also go to battle for others with God’s "fightin’ words." I heard a true story this past Sunday from a missionary who visited my church. She told of a woman who was terrified to return home after a man put a curse on her because she didn’t accept his marriage proposal. Guess what verse the missionary had read in her Bible just that morning?

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest (Prov. 26:2).

After sharing that verse with the woman, the missionary asked, "Have you done anything wrong to deserve this curse?"

"No," the lady responded.

"Then God says the curse won’t stick," the missionary assured.

With that, the woman’s fear lifted, and she returned home.

So how about it? Have you been treating God’s Word like a kid’s play sword or like the sharp, living sword it really is?

I know I’ve not been taking it seriously enough, so I think I’m going to download the "Fighter Verses" app on my phone and begin to sharpen my sword. Join me?

Oh, and if you happen to be a part of the too-short, too-tall, ugly-shoe-wearing bullied crowd, here are some real "fightin’ words" for you to take to heart from Psalm 139:13–14:

You [God] knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Them’s Fightin’ Words!” was originally published 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.

The Battleground of Your Mind

 

The Battleground of Your Mind

 

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.

Note: Parts of this post are excerpted from Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl.

The Battleground of Your Mind” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

When God Gives You His Hand-Me-Downs

 

When God Gives You His Hand-Me-Downs

Have you ever received hand-me-downs from an older sister or cousin? I have for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, hand-me-downs were dropped off in garbage bags and the shirts wore barbeque residue on the front or yellow stains under the sleeves.

But a few years ago my stylish friend from New York started sharing her hand-me-downs with me. They were dropped off in Ralph Lauren bags and displayed tags like DKNY. Turns out “hand-me-downs” aren’t necessarily synonymous with junk!

Did you know God gives us His better-than-DKNY hand-me-downs? The different pieces of armor we’re told to put on in Ephesians 6 actually belong to . . . God!

Put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11).

Today we’re going to look at one piece of His armor, the breastplate of righteousness:

Stand therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14).

First, let’s check out God modeling the breastplate. Flip all the way back to Isaiah for a look:

The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. . . . He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies (59:15, 17–18, emphasis added).

The Lord putting on righteousness is colorful language to describe that He is righteous to His core. He always does what is right and just.

Now, I should probably interrupt myself here and mention that when Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Ephesus, they were used to seeing Roman soldiers walking around wearing breastplates. Not exactly something we see everyday in 2014! Today’s breastplate would look more like . . . a bulletproof vest.

So what do we need to do to get this breastplate/bulletproof vest of righteousness from God?

Believe God. It’s always been that way since the beginning of time:

And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).

Once a crowd asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” In other words, “What must we do to be righteous”?

Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Who did God send? Jesus!

So I have to ask . . . have you repented of your sin and trusted in His Son, Jesus, to save you from God’s just wrath against your sin?

If so, you have been given Christ’s righteousness. Another word for that is you have been justified. God looks at you just as if you’ve never sinned and just as if you’ve always obeyed—because that’s what Jesus did for you!

But you are also being sanctified. You’re already righteous in God’s eyes, but now you’re being made more like Him in everyday life, with the help of God’s Spirit in you.
So what does putting on the breastplate of righteousness look like?

  • It looks like believing in Christ’s righteousness even when Satan tempts you to despair (check out the song below). When that voice in your head tells you you’re not good enough, how do you respond? Do you think, Yes, but I read my Bible regularly or Yes, but I’m the nicest girl in school or . . . Yes, but Christ is my righteousness.
  • It looks like acting righteously (rightly) before God and to other people. Like the guy who returned my wallet to me rather than keeping it for himself (another story for another day). Putting on the breastplate of righteousness is both about what we believe and how we live, because what we believe always impacts what we do.

I haven’t received any hand-me-downs from my stylish friend in a couple years, but I have been given God’s hand-me-downs. You have, too, if you’re in Christ. The question is . . . are the pieces stuffed in the back of the bottom drawer of your dresser, or are you putting them on every morning?

When God Gives You His Hand-Me-Downs” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

The Myth of My Strength

Do you consider yourself a strong or a weak woman?

For years I considered myself a strong woman. As a teen, I flexed my biceps, challenged guys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranged my heavy bedroom furniture by myself. In my twenties, I scheduled an activity on my calendar every night of the week and wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I always, always pushed through.

But then I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall. My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did. I wasn’t so sure. More

Hives, the ER, and the Shield of Faith

I wielded the shield of faith a lot this past month, as 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.

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.

Taking up the shield of faith is 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.)

Hives, the ER, and the Shield of Faith” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Are You A Judas?

When Pastor Walter Price told us he’d be preaching on Judas Iscariot, my ears perked up. I’d never heard a sermon preached about the disciple who betrayed Jesus. (Have you?) Walter didn’t disappoint. And boy, did he sober me up when he said,

“Judas knew the blessings of proximity to the things of God, he did a lot of great things for God, but he didn’t know God.”

Every August our staff gets together for one week to refocus on Jesus before we launch into a new year of ministry. With just three weeks ’til my book releases, this Seek Week found me cranking out bored woman“book” work (book marketing, book website, book interviews, book, book, book)–and cold-hearted. I was working for Jesus, but I sure wasn’t enjoying Him.

I’ve never thought about all the great things Judas got to do. Here’s just a peek from Matthew 10:

He [Jesus] called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction (v. 1).

Just to be sure we don’t miss it, Matthew lists all twelve names of the men Jesus sent out, ending with

. . . and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him (v. 4).

Judas was there. Check out the mind-blowing miracles Judas performed:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them . . . “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (vv. 5, 8).

Not only did Judas do miracles, he saw miracles right and left. In Mark 6:43, Judas ate ’til he was stuffed—and then he brought home a whole basket of bread and fish—after Jesus fed 5,000 people with a skimpy five loaves and two fish.

And yet, Jesus hadn’t captured Judas’ heart; money had. Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver—enough silver, at least, to buy a field (Matt. 27:3–10). Judas’ story puts skin to Matthew 7:21–23, the most sobering words of Jesus in the Bible—at least in my opinion:

“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 I need to ask, are you busy doing things for Jesus without really loving Him? Are you telling others about Him without delighting in His beauty yourself?

If so, let me help you out by giving you a glimpse of Jesus’ beauty. Just before His death, Jesus tells the same twelve men that one of them is going to betray Him. He then leans over to Judas and says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” The passage continues,

“Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him” (John 13:27-28).

Did you catch that? None of the other eleven disciples suspected Judas. Jesus had never treated Judas any differently than the rest of His disciples. All along Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart, how Judas would betray Him, but Jesus loved Judas all the same. I don’t know about you, but I find that beautiful.

My prayer for you—and me—is that we would never be too busy working “for” Jesus that we miss “drinking from the river of His delights” (Ps. 36:8).

Are You A Judas?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.