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Why Is Lying Such a Big Deal?

Why Is Lying Such a Big Deal?

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?

Why Not Lie?

It’s true that God commands us not to lie, but I think we need to dig deeper. Why does God hate lying? Why does lying make the top Ten Commandments cut?

You ready? Here are two reasons:

  1. God can’t lie.

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 . . .

  1. We are created to represent God.

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

 

How to NOT Hurt the Singles in Your Church

How to NOT Hurt the Singles in Your Church

The singles in your church are hurting. Many (dare I say most?) of them have a strained relationship with the church.

There’s Pain in Your Pews

Since writing a book on singleness, I hear from singles often. Here’s what one thirty-nine-year-old woman has to say:

I’m convinced there is something very wrong with me! I feel like a complete outcast in each and every church. The weird thing is I don’t feel that way at work, which is a completely secular environment. Lately I’ve been crying all weekend and so grateful to be able to go to work on Monday morning because I know I’m valued and wanted there and I know I am contributing something as well.

This woman isn’t the only single who feels like an oddity in church. You might be tempted to think, Oh, toughen up! You think marriage is easy? But here’s why their hurt is our problem, too.

It’s a Family Responsibility

If you’ve placed all your trust in Christ as your righteousness, you’re now a tiny but vital member of His family and of His Body. There are millions upon millions of other members, and what impacts each of these people impacts you because we’re one now. Paul tells us:

But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor. 12:24–26, emphasis added).

We have a responsibility to care for singles as we would our own families, because we’re not independent individuals anymore. We’re a part of something so much larger. Besides, in heaven there will be no individual marriage or families other than the family of God (Matt. 22:30).

So how can we care for singles as we ought? It starts with how we think about singleness.

Singleness Isn’t a Disease to Be Healed

Many people view singleness as a disease to be healed. I’ve been guilty of this myself. God’s Word, however, has quite a different perspective.

In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul addresses the whole church about the advantages and benefits of singleness. Singles, he says, are spared anxieties and troubles. (If you told a single that, they’d probably think, Ha! Paul obviously didn’t have a clue. I have plenty of troubles, and plenty to be anxious about!)

I don’t think Paul intends to minimize everything a single has to juggle in life. His point is that they’re not distracted by needing to please the Lord and their spouse. They have the freedom to be singularly devoted to the Lord.

Let’s be careful that we don’t adopt a “woe is you because you’re single” mindset when God celebrates singleness.

Let’s also be careful about how we “encourage” singles.

Steer Clear of Lousy Encouragement

I wonder, is your encouragement to singles actually encouraging them? Is it grounded in truth? Here are four examples straight from the lips of singles of hurtful “encouragement” they tend to receive from those in the church:

  • “God won’t bring you your spouse until you’re content in your singleness.” (Let’s think about this . . . when do we ever earn God’s gifts?)
  • “Oh, don’t worry, Honey, God has someone special out there for you!” (Does He? How do you know this? Scripture tells us that everyone will not get married and that singleness is good. A lot of unintentional hurt is caused by assuming that everyone will marry one day.)
  • “Marriage is how God makes us holy” and “I didn’t really know how much God loved me until I had kids.” (This makes singles feel like they’re not only missing out on a family but on sanctification! A better way to say this would be, “Marriage is one of the means God uses to help make us holy.”)
  • Another single requested, “Don’t remind us that marriage isn’t all happily ever after with the perfect prince/princess of our dreams. Single adults are intelligent people. We’re no longer the teenagers in the youth group. We’re not expecting Disney or Hollywood. Our dreams of marriage are normal and healthy, and being belittled because we still hope for marriage (the same way our now-married friends once did) is insulting.”

We’ve looked at our thoughts. We’ve considered our words. But what about our actions? One of the greatest ways we can bless singles in the church is by our hospitality.

Invisible No More

Here are a few ideas of how you can show hospitality to the singles in your church:

  • Invite them to sit with you rather than sitting alone. When I was single, Sundays were the loneliest day of the week for me as I sat surrounded by happy-looking married couples and families.
  • If you’re in church leadership, examine your upcoming events and make sure they’re geared to all people in general, not just toward married people or parents.
  • Celebrate the milestones of the singles in your small group, like their birthdays or moving into their own place. One single pointed out, “Our accomplishments are often ignored; we don’t get showers, registries, and parties. We are no one’s priority, and that often makes us invisible.“
  • Ask a single at church if they have plans for the next holiday. If not, invite them to your home. A dear family did this for me one year when I wasn’t able to travel home for Christmas. They even bought me a present! Don’t forget Mother’s Day, as well. One of my single mom friends noted, “Single moms won’t spend money on themselves (many are at poverty level), and their children may be too young to know how to celebrate them.”

Come On In!

Don’t stop there, though. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has said, “It’s in our homes, not standing in the aisle after church, that we have the greatest opportunity to really practice the ‘one anothers’ of Scripture.” One anothers like:

  • Love one another.
  • Pray for one another.
  • Admonish one another.
  • Edify one another.
  • Care for one another.
  • Bear one another’s burdens.

I was the recipient of remarkable hospitality as a single. The hospitality that most reflected God welcoming me into His family was when an older couple invited me to live in their home when I was in my late twenties.

For the three years I stayed with them, I never felt like I needed to keep to my own room and not bother them. On the contrary, they treated me like I was their daughter!

I’m not saying you have to open your spare bedroom to a single. Maybe you do something more like what Eleanor has encountered:

The greatest blessing for me as a single person has been eating with a family from church every week and helping put their young children to bed. Nothing extraordinary, just what they would be doing if I wasn’t there.

Sometimes I barely talk to the parents while I’m there, because they’re so exhausted. I don’t always see them at their best. They don’t just have me over when it’s convenient. But they choose to truly let me into their lives and hearts, and that is a great blessing and a joy.

Single people will sometimes be lonely. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families.” Maybe for one single, it’s your family.

Let’s Put Feet to This

Let’s not just write and read about how to help the singles in our church; let’s do something about it! But where should we start?

  1. Identify the singles in your church and life. Not just those you’d like to hang out with but those God has placed in close proximity to you. Think broadly: singles who have never been married, widows, divorcees, single moms, and those who for all practical purposes are single because their spouse is absent.
  2. Pray for them. Make this a priority, and try to pray for at least one single daily. (You might consider downloading an app like PrayerMate to help you remember.)
  3. Engage them. Pick at least one single on your list, and come up with a plan to reach out to them. This is just a practical way to help you love your neighbor.

Ready, set, help! Not because singles need fixing, and not because you’re the savior of the singles—but because:

  • God welcomed you into His family when you had nothing to offer Him.
  • You are now family by blood—the blood of Christ.
  • When they hurt, you hurt.

Ultimately, give yourself to them, with a genuine heart, and watch how greatly God will bless you through their friendship in the process.

A version of this post originally appeared as an article in Revive Magazine and then on TrueWoman.com

How I Lost (and Regained) My Parents’ Trust

How I Lost (and Regained) My Parents’ Trust

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.

Have You Lost Your Parents’ Trust, Too?

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?

How To Get Your Parents’ Trust Back

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 . . .

Should I Keep Praying for a Husband?

Should I Keep Praying for a Husband?

Is it okay to keep praying . . . and praying . . . and praying some more for a husband? This is a question I wrestled with when I was single. After all, I’d been praying for a husband for years, yet God seemed to thwart my desire for marriage at every turn.

I’m not the only one who wrestles with whether it’s okay to continue praying for a husband. A thirty-two-year-old recently wrote me:

For as long as I can remember, I have desired marriage. Though my heart aches in this season of prolonged singleness, I know that the Lord has given me this time as a gift to serve Him without any relational constraints. Therefore, I am not sure how to pray.

I don’t want to pray half-heartedly or without faith. Yet there is no guarantee the Lord has marriage in His plan for me. I do not want to stuff this desire and pretend it doesn’t exist. Nor do I want to hyperfocus on this longing and believe contentment requires its fulfillment.

What is the biblical solution? How can I honor God in my prayer life in this season, rejoicing in His faithfulness while also grieving this unfulfilled longing?

If you have a similar question about an unfulfilled longing in your life or in the life of a single friend, this post is for you. Today we’re going to eavesdrop on Jesus’ prayers to the Father on one of the darkest nights of His life. I think you just might find your answer tucked right there in the olive groves of Gethsemane. Let’s join Him.

Jesus’ Desperate Prayers

It’s Thursday night. Jesus has just eaten His final meal with His disciples. But instead of getting ready for bed, He steps out into the night and makes His way to the garden of Gethsemane.

It’s nothing new for Him to spend a night in prayer. This night, though, is different. As the God-Man, He knows what will take place in a few short hours. This is what He came to earth for. This is what He has read about in the Scriptures throughout His life on earth—the details of the weighty, solitary death He would die on behalf of all the elect.

But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t dread every second of what is to follow:

[Jesus] began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to [His disciples], “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:33–34).

Another account says He was in “agony.” This is no casual prayer time!

Going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (vv. 35–36).

By the way, when Jesus asks His Father to remove “this cup,” He’s using a metaphor. The Old Testament often employs this language to speak of God’s judgment. For example, Isaiah 51:17 says:

Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs.

Jesus knew He was about to drink the Father’s fury toward sin to the very last drop. And in His humanity, He wanted out.

Four Ways We Can Pray Like Jesus

Now, obviously, Jesus is not asking for a spouse or a child or a job here. He is asking for a way out of death. No, that’s not it either . . . He’s recoiling from His most humbling act yet: drinking the full cup of the Father’s wrath for sins He’d never commited. Our sins.

So at the risk of sounding like I’m comparing our unfulfilled longings with what Jesus went through on our behalf, I do believe we can learn from His prayers for our own requests. Here’s how.

1. Get honest with God while praying for a husband.

God knows your deepest desires. He is intimately aware of all your longings. He sees. He cares. So be real with Him. Get honest. Spill your guts out to Him. You won’t surprise or shock or horrify Him.

Come to Him over and over and over with your true self. Keep pressing into Him with those unfulfilled longings.

2. Feel free to be a broken record
when praying for a husband.

Jesus was a broken record. In Matthew 26:44, we learn that Jesus prayed this prayer three times in a row:

He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

These weren’t one-sentence prayers, either. Probably more like one-hour prayers (see Matthew 26:40).

Jesus didn’t let up. Over and over, He repeated the same request. Not only that . . . each time He pleaded even more earnestly with His Father.

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44).

That encourages me: I can bring my request to God again and again and again. Jesus knew it was the Father’s will for Him to go to the cross, but still He asked for a way out if there was any other way to accomplish the salvation of mankind.

But note that this is not the end of Jesus’ prayer . . .

3. Keep your hands open while praying for a husband.

“Nevertheless,” Jesus always added, “not as I will, but as you will. Your will be done.”

This tells me I can keep asking as long as I don’t demand my way but surrender to God’s plan for my life. That’s what Paul Miller points out in A Praying Life:

Jesus neither suppresses his feelings nor lets them master him. . . . Desire and surrender are the perfect balance to praying.

I also like what I read here:

Jesus was committed to the will of God—body, mind, and soul. The prayer of the righteous is always dependent on the will of God (see Matthew 6:10).

It is good to know that, when we face trials, Jesus knows what it’s like to want God’s will and yet not to want it; to act out of love yet dread the hurt that often results; to desire righteousness and obedience, even when the flesh is screaming out against it. This conflict is not sinful; it is human. Our Savior was “fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God” (Hebrews 2:17).

So feel free to boldly continue asking God to send an amazing husband your way in His perfect timing. Hold your desire with an open hand even as you pray and recruit others to pray with you.

4. Ask for more than just a husband.

But don’t stop with praying for a husband. Jesus taught His followers how to pray in Matthew 6:9–13:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Are you praying for God’s kingdom to come? Or are your prayers dominated by requests related to your unfulfilled longing? Use the Lord’s Prayer as a model for your own prayers, beginning with reminding yourself who it is you are addressing.

Praying “Right” May Not Get You a Husband . . .

But remember that praying “right” won’t secure what you want.

The Father didn’t provide a way out for Jesus. His atoning sacrifice on our behalf was the only way for our salvation to be secured.

And because Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will, all people have been given the opportunity to be reconciled to God. On top of that, Jesus has been highly exalted above all others. His intense pain and agony is over, and on the other side of it is joy, exultation, and praise.

God’s ways are always higher and better than ours. Trust Him as you pour your heart out to Him. He is good, and all He does is good. Even the suffering of waiting is for your good. I promise. But more than that, He promises (Rom. 8:28).

I’m curious to hear from you. Have you wrestled with this dilemma? If so, what has God shown you? Whether it’s asking God for a husband—or something else entirely—are you demanding your desires, or are you bringing them to your Father?

(MatthewMark, and Luke all wrote about Jesus’ excruciating night of prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. You can read their accounts here.)

This post was originally featured on TrueWoman.com.

How to Lovingly Turn Him Down

How to Lovingly Turn Him Down

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.

Love Him Before You Turn Him Down . . .

  • Remember that this guy has worth. You might think he’s creepy, but everyone—including this guy—is made in the image of God. That means he has great value and worth in God’s eyes, and he should to you, too—even if you don’t like him “like that.”
  • Go to God rather than gossiping about him to your friends.Ask God to give you wisdom to lovingly but truthfully communicate with this guy. Ask God to draw this guy closer to Himself through this disappointment. Pray that this guy wouldn’t believe lies about his worth. Pray for wisdom in your interactions with him. You get the idea.
  • Accept this as God’s assignment for you. You might be frustrated because you don’t want to deal with this. I get that. But God is sovereign, and He has allowed this to happen. So can you receive it from Him?
  • Don’t rush. You might want to get this guy out of your life ASAP. A quick text might seem like the simplest solution. But is it really best? Pause. Breathe. Pray. There’s no need to freak out about this. You’ve got this, girl, and you can do it in a way that honors God and loves this guy.

Love Him When You Turn Him Down . . .

  • Own it. Don’t blame God by saying something like, “God hasn’t given me a green light,” or “I just don’t have peace,” or “I don’t feel God wants me to date right now.” Say it like it is: You don’t want to date him. (I mean, come on. If a hot, godly guy came along right now who liked you, would you really tell him you didn’t think God wants you to date right now?)
  • Tell the truth. When I was a teen, I thought covering up the real reason I didn’t like a guy would protect him. Wrong! “Not hurting his feelings” never justifies lying. Proverbs 24:26 says it like this: “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” So give him a “kiss” of truth—lol. It’s the least you can give him. Don’t tell him what you think he wants to hear. I’m not saying you can just blurt out whatever you’re thinking and be oblivious to his feelings. Use wisdom, but be truthful. If you’re not attracted to him, tell him you’re just not feeling anything beyond friendship. If there’s a deeper reason—a reason that would help him know where he needs to grow—share that with him in a direct, loving way. You get the picture.
  • Affirm him where you can. Even if you don’t like him, you can let him know it’s an honor that he would take an interest in you! More than that, he demonstrated an enormous amount of courage in putting his feelings out there and asking you out. Tell him how much you admire that and that you hope your response won’t keep him from pursuing the right girl at the right time.

Today I’m writing over on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. To read about how to love him after you turn him down, click here.

The Christian Life in 3 Simple Phrases

The Christian Life in 3 Simple Phrases

“The Christian life is simple. Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when you fail.”

This sentence has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even my life—since I heard it.

The Christian Life Made Simple

A pastor spoke these words simply as I sat in a circle of complete strangers (you can read that story here). But that’s not the point of this post.

What I want to communicate is that this truth has been changing my thoughts and actions since I heard them. And I think they’ll do the same for you.

See, for years I’ve scurried around trying to chip away at my to-do list. But just when I’d eliminate one task, three more would pop up.

So I’ve lived with the mentality that “after my work is done, I’ll rest.” (All that did was result in a giant physical and emotional crash several years ago.) But recently God has used other means—as well as this one, simple sentence—to calm my anxious heart and change my whole approach to the Christian life.

Instead of hitting the ground running each morning in an effort to tame my beastly to-do list, I’ve realized that my task for each day is simple: Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when I fail.

Where did this pastor get this idea? Probably from Jesus. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, this is how He responded:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37–40).

What It’s All About

This is what the Christian life is all about. Our Creator made us in His image. He has charged us with living like Him, the God of love. But we have failed. Big time.

God knew we would. And so because He is love, He has made a way for us to be transformed.

He sent His Son to live a life of love toward God and others in our place. While Jesus loved mankind perfectly, we spit in His face. Rejected Him. Left Him for dead.

But Love is stronger than the grave, and He rose victoriously, securing a forgiven past and a brand-new present and future for all who would trust in Him.

That’s not all. He hasn’t left you to muster up love for Himself and for others on your own. He has given His Spirit to all who trust in Him—this Spirit who just naturally produces love.

So if you’re anxious like me, I have good news. You can breathe deep. The Christian life is simple, really:

Love God.
Love others.
Repent and believe the gospel when you fail.

Okay, it’s your turn to talk. How does this simple summary of the Christian life focus and/or redirect your hectic life? Do you need to repent of not loving God and others and believe the gospel—that in Christ you are forgiven? What can you do today to cooperate with the Spirit in you in loving God and others?]

This post was originally featured on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

The Gospel Is Never Old News

The Gospel Is Never Old News

“Titanic Sinks Four Hours After Hitting Iceberg” . . . “ON THE MOON! And It’s ‘One Giant Leap for Mankind’” . . . “Diana Dead.” All these headlines were breaking news at one time, but now they’re . . . old news.

For many Christians, the gospel isn’t much different. I don’t know about you, but for most of my life, I thought of the gospel as good news for unbelievers but old news for believers.

Boy, was I wrong.

The Gospel Is Still for You, Believer

News flash: The gospel isn’t mainly for your unbeliving neighbors!

But don’t just take my word for it. In Romans 16:25, Paul writes to believers, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.”

Did you catch that? It’s the gospel that strengthens us as believers. The simple, familiar story of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf.

Here’s another verse, written about believers, that clues us in that the gospel isn’t mainly for our lost neighbors: “The gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5–6).

Is the gospel bearing fruit and increasing in you and me? (Hint: If we’re not regularly rehearsing gospel truths, it probably isn’t.)

I like how Tim Keller puts it: “The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A-to-Z of the Christian life.”

Today I’m writing over on TrueWoman.com. Catch the rest of this post there.

Then, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you tended to think of the gospel as good but old news . . . or as good news for today and tomorrow and the day after?

A Hospitable Church Begins with Us

A Hospitable Church Begins with Us

The American church tends to get a bad rap—and often with good reason. That’s why I want to tell you about a gem of a church that Trevor and I stumbled across on our way to Illinois this past Thanksgiving. A church that shattered the negative stereotypes of what the American church is all about. A hospitable church.

Happening Upon a Hospitable Church

Up until the day before, we planned to attend a different local church. But when my friend invited us to her church and then over for lunch at her pastor’s house, we were intrigued.

“You’re totally welcome,” she said. “We do it every Sunday. We spend the whole afternoon together, go back for a 5:30 p.m. service, and then make supper there. Leftovers, pizza rolls . . . nothing fancy.”

I wasn’t terribly keen on the idea of spending the entire day with strangers (I like my alone time!). But Trevor was excited about attending a church that made it easy for us to corporately set aside the Lord’s Day. So we said “yes.”

And that’s how we ended up spending all Sunday with perfect strangers. Believe it or not, I didn’t miss my alone time. That day was the highlight of our vacation . . . and even one of the top highlights of 2017 for us.

What made it so great? Yes, the songs and sermon were meaty and rich. Yes, the people were friendly. And boy, those homemade salted caramel cookies they served after service . . .

But what really sealed the deal was the hospitality we experienced after the church doors were shut.

Walking Into a Hospitable Home

We felt right at home from the moment we walked into the house and the kids took our coats at the door. The mom of the house showed me a messy but private bedroom where I could nurse Iren.

Trevor and the pastor talked and ate while I fed Iren. Then I came down, and different kids held Iren while I chowed down and talked with my friend.

I noted that the pastor was down-to-earth and accessible. He seemed a bit shy, but he was present with us all afternoon. He didn’t lead the conversation; he just sat on the couch with a drink, obviously enjoying the conversation and people.

Kids of all ages sat crosslegged on the floor. Men and women sat around the room in chairs—one woman knitting.

Conversation meandered here and there until I started a group conversation on parenting and rules. I was amazed to hear they’re not big on adding rules to their kids’ lives but on focusing on God’s two greatest commands: loving Him and loving others. I took lots of mental notes for when Iren gets a little bigger.

We went back to the church for evening service and then joined these same people in the kitchen for pizza and more fun, deep conversation.

Becoming a Hospitable Church

Trevor and I exited those church doors late that evening saying, “We want that kind of love, community, and hospitality at our church.”

“Let’s pray for that,” I said.

“Yes,” he replied, “and it starts with us.”

I am so grateful for his perspective. We are the church (Eph. 1:22-23). There is no need to sit around waiting for someone else to take action—not even the leaders. We can and should take ownership, initiate, and invite others into our lives and home.

How about you? Are you waiting for someone else to set the tone at your local church, or are you welcoming others into your life and home? Let’s be a hospitable church!

PS: If you live in the Michiana area, check out Michiana Covenant Presbyterian. It’s a hidden gem.

PPS: Come back to the blog next Friday to read about the one sentence this pastor shared that has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even the course of my life—ever since I heard it.

 

Tiny, Bald, and Toothless Forever, Please

Tiny, Bald, and Toothless Forever, Please

My dear friend Martha became Mrs. McCallops earlier this month. I choked up as her husband, Chris, began to dance the mother-son dance at the reception. As he drew his mother near and whispered in her ear, I squeezed Iren just a little bit closer.

“That will be Iren before we know it,” I told Trevor.

“No, I want him to be tiny, bald, and toothless forever!” he replied.

But we both know that can’t be. Iren’s not tiny (still 99th percentile for length!). He’s sprouted feathery light hair all over his head, and his two top teeth have made their appearance. More than that, he’s constantly on the move. Our baby has bid us goodbye; we are already seeing all boy.

Born to Leave

Much as we might be tempted to squeeze him just a bit tighter sometimes, we know he’s not ours to keep. He was made by and for God, and our goal is to raise an independent man who will leave home one day. Our greatest desire for him is that he will both know and make God known wherever he goes.

And so I’m preparing for our mother-son dance already, should he marry one day. Iren has been to at least two weddings since he was born, and both times I’ve brought him out to the dance floor to sway and then “get jiggy with it.”

He was born to leave, and I will do my best to release him well.

I love you, my son. And because I do, I hold you with open hands. Someday we may dance our own mother-son dance, and then I will give you to another woman. Should you not marry, I will share you with the world.

Because you never ultimately belonged to me. You belong to God. Go and make Him known.

(Thanks to www.HHawkinsPhotography.com for the excellent photo!)

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to check out Back to Blogging Post-Baby

 

3 Ways a Star Wars Villain Points to a Greater Story

3 Ways a Star Wars Villain Points to a Greater Story

My husband and I counted down the days. On Friday, December 15, Lucasfilm released the eighth Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. We were there. Early. My hubby is the kind of fan who already knew the first two words of the upcoming film (“We’re not . . .”).

So naturally, after we married a couple of years ago, Trevor and I had a Star Wars marathon. He introduced me to all I’d missed out on in my deprived life up until that point. Now, I have to say, I’m a fan. In fact, I agreed to let Trevor design Iren’s baby announcement around Star Wars.

Consequently, today I’m sharing three ways Star Wars villain Kylo Ren points to a greater story. Check it out, and be encouraged. If you’re in Christ—no matter how dark your world may look—the dark side will not win.

3 Ways a Star Wars Villain Points to a Greater Story

If you saw the last Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, you’ll remember Han Solo talking about how a young boy who was once a Jedi apprentice turned to the dark side and destroyed Luke Skywalker’s fledgling Jedi academy.

When I saw who that boy became, I was reminded of a few ways the new Star Wars villain, Kylo Ren, parallels our actual enemy, Satan. (Spoiler alert for those who haven’t yet seen The Force Awakens!)

  1. Just as Kylo Ren was once a Jedi apprentice, Satan was once a good angel of light.

We know this because all God created was good, not evil. Genesis 1:31 shows God standing back, assessing His creation:

God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (emphasis added).

  1. Both Kylo Ren and Satan rebelled against their former masters.

Just as Kylo destroyed Luke’s academy, at some point before Genesis 3:1, Satan rebels against God. Jude 1:6 fills us in on his journey to the “dark side”:

The angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.

  1. Both Kylo and Satan were wounded but given more time to work their evil.

After Kylo was defeated and scarred by Rey, Kylo retreated to his dark master, Snoke. We’ll see his fight continue against “the light” in some shape in The Last Jedi.

Similarly, God cast Satan out of heaven, but he was allowed to continue his work on earth for a time:

The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:9-12).

Satan was then crushed at the cross, as it had been foretold in Genesis 3:15:

“He [the offspring of the woman, Jesus] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Hebrews 2:14 tells us:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (emphasis added).

Yet the devil still limps around, like the scarred Kylo.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Why didn’t God put a complete end to Satan long ago? Pastor John Piper explains it well in this excellent sermon:

Jesus Christ will be more highly honored in the end because he defeats Satan through longsuffering, patience, humility, servanthood, suffering, and death, rather than through raw power. And the more highly honored the Son is, the greater the joy of those who love him.

Ways This Star Wars Villain Does Not Point to the Greater Story

This is where the similarities between Kylo and Satan end. Because while Kylo and the other evil members of the First Order continue their terror in that galaxy far, far away, no one will ultimately continue Satan’s work.

Jesus Christ has risen to ensure that the darkness will not overcome the light. He is the stronger one! Soon Satan, sin, and death will be utterly and completely done away with. Revelation 20:10 gives us a glimpse into the future:

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

This is incredible reason to rejoice! As epic as the Star Wars movies are, they are just that . . . movies. But Satan’s final demise (and sin and death’s) is as sure as a Star Wars nerd cooking up a terrible Rey parentage or Snoke origin theory.

What does this mean for you? The end to all:

Praise God. No matter how dark your world may look, the dark side will not win.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you (Romans 16:20).

3 Ways a Star Wars Villain Points to a Greater Story was originally published on Patheos.com.