Paula Writes Header

Five Ways to Avoid Getting ‘Beyond’ the Gospel

Five Ways to Avoid Getting ‘Beyond’ the Gospel

“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 just . . . old news.

The gospel isn’t much different for most Christians. 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.

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

The Gospel Is for You, Too, Believer

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s head straight to the source. For example, 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. Not how-to books or more schooling but the simple, familiar story of Jesus Christ’s 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 is bearing fruit and increasing in them since the day they heard it and understood the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:6).

Mind if I ask . . . Is the gospel bearing fruit and increasing in you? (Hint: If you’re not regularly going back to 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.

Reminding Ourselves of the Gospel

The gospel is meant to change everything about our lives. Everything. Paul understood that; that’s why he reminded the Corinthians believers over and over of the gospel:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you (1 Cor. 15:1).

We need to daily be reminded of the gospel, too. Marci Preheim says,

Christians do not outgrow the gospel. They don’t achieve a level of righteousness and then write how-to books to help the folks who haven’t figured it out yet. We never get beyond needy.

And I’d add, we never get beyond our need for the gospel.

Receiving the Gospel

Paul goes on,

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received.

When we hear the gospel for the three-thousandth time, rather than sighing, I’ve heard this before—why can’t you write a more practical blog post? and then clicking away, we need to gladly receive and believe the gospel each time we hear it.

I stumbled across an admission on the blogosphere from a man named Dane Ortlund and found it really helpful. Here’s the gist:

At the most fundamental level, I am an irreversible “believer” the rest of my life, by the grace of God. But at another level I move from believer to unbeliever (from exercising faith in Christ to forsaking faith in Christ) dozens of times, hundreds even, each day.

At the doctrinal level we look to Christ with sustained, consistent permanence. But in our everyday experience we keep faltering, keep swiveling away from Christ and looking to other saviors—even Christian saviors like Scripture memory or service in the church.

Ouch. I don’t know about you, but that hurts ’cause it’s right on. We need to continually believe and receive the gospel.

Paul knew that nothing is more important than the gospel:

I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received (1 Cor. 15:1).

Dusting off the Gospel Daily

So if the gospel is so important, how can you grow in your understanding and appreciation of it? Here are five suggestions.

    1. Realize you’re not any more accepted or loved by God if you grasp all the gospel implications for everyday life, or if you can communicate gospel implications clearly. You and I are accepted by faith in Christ alone.
    2. According to The Gospel-Centered Life, the way to grow in the gospel is not to downplay either God’s holiness or your sinfulness. As your awareness of God’s holiness and your sinfulness grows, the cross will stretch bigger and bigger in your mind and heart. Surprising, huh?
    3. Continually repent and believe. Repent of forsaking Christ in favor of a works-righteousness and believe again in Christ’s perfect righteousness applied to you. Repent and believe. Repent and believe all day long.
    4. Watch how the biblical authors modeled this, and then imitate them. Over and over in the New Testament, there’s this pattern of first gospel declaration (who we are in Christ), and then gospel expectation (how we are to live in light of this). Watch for this pattern and communicate this way with others. When you share a gospel obligation, be sure to also share a gospel declaration. Tim Keller puts it this way,

The knowledge of our acceptance in Christ . . . makes the law of God a thing of beauty instead of a burden. We now run the race for the joy that is set before us rather than for the fear that comes behind us.

  1. Get your hands on gospel-centered resources.Books by Elyse Fitzpatrick like:

    Grace Is Free: One Woman’s Journey from Fundamentalism to Failure to Faith by Marci Preheim

    The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The fact that:
the Titanic sunk . . .
and mankind left footprints on the moon . .
and Princess Di died . . .
doesn’t have a whole lot to do with your everyday life, does it.

But if you’re “in Christ,” the fact that:
     Jesus died . . .
     was buried . . .
     and rose again . . .
     has everything to do with your everyday life. Everything. 

Is this a news flash for you? 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?

Five Ways to Avoid Getting ‘Beyond’ the Gospel” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

Share this →Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestPrint this page

Four More Things I Learned from Entering a Pageant

Four More Things I Learned from Entering a Pageant

 

Yesterday I shared four things I learned from entering a pageant. Not a pageant like you see on TV, mind you; this one was held in a field the first year and a barn the second year. Seriously. I felt comfy entering this particular pageant because its point was less about showcasing some unrealistic standard of beauty and more about building our communication skills. But it still required me to get faaarrr out of my comfort zone.

So without further ado, here are four more things I learned from entering a pageant.

    1. I learned to perform under pressure.

For at least a month before the competition, I walked, talked, and dreamed pageant. The night before the big event, I tossed and turned, imagining every possible outcome. Morning dawned at last, and I ate a healthy breakfast before driving to the mall to have my makeup done.

After getting my hair styled and dressing in my interview suit, I stood (so as not to wrinkle) and tried to convince myself I was calm.

At last it was time to leave for the competition. This was the day I’d been anticipating for over a month, and I couldn’t let this fact terrorize me.

What pressure-packed situation are you facing? Have you learned the secret to being A-Okay regardless of the outcome?

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:11–13).

    1. I learned to communicate comfortably.

Not only did we give a speech, do an interview, and answer fishbowl questions, but much to everyone’s surprise, we interacted with the judges rather . . . spontaneously. It happened like this.

The judges’ decision was ultimately under God’s control. He gave me His very best.

We were enjoying a light supper together on the day of the pageant when the tornado siren began to blare. Immediately, the contestants, directors, and judges hurried to the farthest windowless room in the building. We huddled around a crackling radio, wondering if the public portion of the pageant would be cancelled. What an awkward, unexpected situation! I discreetly pulled my business suit around my legs as I perched on the edge of an old, orange sofa.

One of the judges joked, “So . . . you know any good jokes?” We all giggled.

Yikes, I thought, we didn’t talk about this in practice. It could jeopardize my standing with the judges—but, hey—I would joke in any other setting. Much to the amazement of everyone in the room, I piped up, “I do,” and proceeded to relate some corny joke. It broke the ice, and we laughed and chatted until the storm blew over.

I’m curious. How have your words either helped or hurt in a pressurized situation?

The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him (Eccles. 10:12).

    1. I realized as never before how many people were rooting for me.

What must my neighbors have thought as they glanced out their windows a month before the pageant and observed my twelve-year-old brother firing fishbowl questions at me, and then watched me waltz around the cul-de-sac in high heels—practicing my pivots—before returning to my brother to answer another question. The time spent with him is still precious to me.

Then there were my fellow employees from “The Hut” (Pizza Hut). They colored “We love Paula” on poster boards and scrawled my name on their cars with washable paint. In fact, the manager came to my rescue the evening of the pageant. As I walked onto the stage, my face muscles froze. I tried to smile but felt my lips quivering madly and then drooping down. I looked out into the crowd, and my eyes connected with hers.

What a sight!

She was puffing out her cheeks, pulling on her ears, and making ridiculous faces. Laughter welled up inside me, and my face unfroze. Throughout that night, when my smile began to droop, I searched the crowd for my manager. Who wouldn’t feel like a winner with friends like these? Proverbs 17:17 is right:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

    1. I learned to be a gracious winner and loser.

This was it. I held my breath as the emcee pulled the second-to-last scrap of paper out of the envelope—the paper that would determine the next year of my life. He paused dramatically, then bellowed my name. I was the runner-up. Mechanically I stepped forward, accepted the flowers, and moved to the front of the stage, smiling all the way.

I didn’t feel like smiling, though. I wanted to allow angry tears to course down my face, to tell the judges how stupid they were, to stomp off the stage in disappointment and disgust. (Hey, I’m just being honest.) But this would not have been appropriate.

There was a girl standing behind me who was on top of the world. For her sake and the sake of my own dignity, I lost graciously. I hugged, congratulated, and took pictures with her. In the process I learned how to be happy for others’ triumphs and how to receive an award without hurting others.

Besides, Proverbs 16:33 says:

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

This truth applies even to “minor” details like who wins a pageant. The judges’ decision was ultimately under God’s control. He gave me His very best, and for some reason, His best was second place.

 

How about you? Do you believe God is ultimately in control of whether you earn that title or make it to state? That He’s for you?

Oh how He is, sweet girl. You don’t need to be a “winner” in order to capture His attention or earn His favor. It’s yours, all yours, if you’re in Christ.

Four More Things I Learned from Entering a Pageant” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Share this →Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestPrint this page

Four Things I Learned from Entering a Pageant

Four Things I Learned from Entering a Pageant

 

Most little girls dream of gliding down a runway in a flowing gown and a glittering crown. Most grown-up girls know they’re not beauty queens and mutter under their breath about “those airheads competing on stage.”

I’m one of those “airheads” who has stood under the floodlights with a pasted-on smile. And though I never sauntered away with a crown perched on my head, the experience was invaluable.
I should tell you that I entered my small county fair pageant in an effort to face my fears. At the time, nothing seemed more terrifying. Oh, it wasn’t like the pageants you see on TV; it was held in a field the first year and a barn the second year. Seriously. I felt comfy entering this particular pageant because its point was less about showcasing some unrealistic standard of beauty and more about building our communication skills. But it still required me to get faaarrr out of my comfort zone.

Here are four lessons I learned from entering a pageant.

    1. I learned to support and love the very girls I was competing against.

For several weeks I practiced, laughed, ate, and dreamed with these girls. The first day I met them, I was faced with a choice: withdraw from them because they were my competition or encourage and love them. I chose the latter and enjoyed friendships and even reciprocal support from them. Makes me think of Proverbs 14:30:

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Are you loving the girls in your life or competing with them?

    1. I learned more about who I was.

As I prepared for the fishbowl questions and interview, I pondered questions I’d never considered before. Who is my role model, and why? What would I do with an extra hour every day? What quality do I desire most in a friend? If I were President for a day, what would I change? This thoughtful reflection was beneficial, as it’s easy to hurry through life without knowing who you are or what you believe.

Wanna take a stab at it? Here are three actual pageant questions:

      • Where do you see yourself fifteen years from now?
      • Who is the most influential person in your life?
      • What constitutes true beauty?

 

  • I learned to accept criticism.

 

Often there’s wisdom to be gained from the criticism of others. Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to listen to instruction (even when it’s painful!).

One traumatic afternoon, the contestants and I were learning a dance routine. (I should let you know I didn’t dance as a child; I participated in spelling bees. I can spell “D-A-N-C-E” forward and backward, but maneuvering my body in unnatural positions doesn’t come easy.) One of the pageant directors unsuccessfully tried to stifle her laughter at my pitiful attempts, and her laugh came out like a snort. That night, I considered dropping out of the pageant, but opted to work under a critical eye.

Often there’s wisdom to be gained from the criticism of others. Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to listen to instruction (even when it’s painful!). Proverbs 29:1 says it this way:

He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.

How do you handle criticism? Do you look for the wisdom in it or “stiffen your neck” out of anger or pride?

 

  • I learned to carry myself with more confidence.

 

I didn’t realize this when I first entered the pageant, but confidence is what wins a crown. The judges aren’t so narrow-minded that they only want a blond, tanned, curvy beauty. They want a uniquely gifted woman who is comfortable with herself. This was hard for me. Truth was, I wasn’t a confident girl. I was full of insecurities. But I did my best to put on a façade of confidence. I learned how to carry myself and walk—two skills I thought I’d mastered years before! I practiced everywhere: walking through the mall, driving in my car, and waiting tables at Pizza Hut.

Years later I’m still learning how to live with confidence. Except this time it’s not tied to how I carry myself or how I walk. The secret is found in Proverbs 14:26:

In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence.

My source of confidence isn’t in a makeover or new clothes or a confident walk. Just like the source of my beauty isn’t a fancy dress or pageant-worthy hair. It’s in knowing my awesome God and thinking more of Him and His view of me than I think of people’s opinions of me.

What makes you feel confident?

Your everyday life is a lot like a beauty pageant—taking tests for grades, going to school with the “pretty” girls, pushing yourself to train for basketball season. How have you faced some of these same struggles in your life?

(Come back tomorrow for four more lessons I learned from entering a pageant.)

Share this →Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestPrint this page

Them’s Fightin’ Words!

 

 width=

 

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.

Share this →Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestPrint this page

Potential Boyfriend or Forever Brother?

Potential Boyfriend or Forever Brother?
You notice him right away. The new guy at youth group.

He’s seriously good looking. You try to focus on the open Bible on your lap, but the letters blur together.

He answers a question, and you listen carefully. He nailed it. So he’s model material AND he knows God’s Word, you celebrate.

But only for a second. Pull it together. You shake your head and force your attention back on what the youth pastor is saying.

After a few minutes you raise your hand, share a thought, and . . . Mr. Model catches your eye and smiles!

You don’t get much out of youth group that day; you’re too busy praying the new guy will ask you out or at least talk to you. Hey, you’d even settle for him following you on Twitter!

It’s hard, isn’t it? Christian guys can seem like an endangered species. So when one day the heavens open and an eye-turning Christian guy is dropped into your life, your brain instantly jumps into high gear trying to figure out how to get his attention. (Let’s be honest, you know the other girls’ antennae are up, so you want to snag him before they do!)

In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to think of the new stranger as more than a potential boyfriend. But let’s face it. He is more . . . a whole lot more.

He’s your forever brother. If he trusts in Jesus’ righteousness rather than his own, he’s your blood-bought brother in Christ. You’ll spend forever with him, right there along with Jesus Himself.

So will you ask God to help you view the Christian guys around you as more than potential boyfriends—as forever brothers in Christ? Here are a few practical tips:

  1. Pray for them. Pray the very best for them. Pray that they’d be kept from temptation. Pray that their enjoyment of Jesus would grow like crazy. Pray whatever the Spirit leads you to pray for them.
  2. Encourage them. Rather than admiring them from a distance, let them know when you see Jesus in them.
  3. Don’t dress to distract them; dress in such a way that they’ll be able to worship Jesus without extra temptation and distraction each Sunday.

After all, that’s how we’re told to relate to guys—even the really cute ones!—as brothers, in all purity:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity (1 Tim. 5:1–2).

How can you treat the Christian guys near you as more than potential boyfriends?

Potential Boyfriend or Forever Brother?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Share this →Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestPrint this page

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.

Share this →Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestPrint this page

Coming Out Christian

 

Coming Out Christian

 

This past month Michael Sam came out of the closet. This was a big deal because, if drafted, he could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

In an ESPN interview, when asked what it was like to tell his teammates, Michael said, "I was kinda scared, even though they already knew, but I was still scared of telling them."

Our culture views this kind of coming out as incredibly brave
but wants to push Christians more and more “into the closet.” That’s why Pastor
Trent Griffith challenged us this past Sunday,





“I’m asking you to be at least as courageous as Michael Sam. Stop
taking the path of least resistance. Come out Christian.”

Just that week I’d come out Christian in front of 120 freshmen at the local public high school. Because Jesus tells us to expect persecution, I wondered if they’d throw their lunches at me or kick me out . . . or both. It felt illegal. But of course it’s not. (At least not yet.)

So during the four-and-a-half hours while I shared writing tips as well as the process of writing Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, I openly identified myself as a Jesus-follower and spoke freely about Him. Then I offered a copy of Confessions to anyone who wanted one.

To my utter amazement, over eighty students lined up for a book. They didn’t throw anything, and they didn’t kick me out. In fact, the teachers said it was the most inspiring thing that’s happened all year.

 

whole class

 

It must’ve been my orange shoes. (Kidding!)

But in all seriousness, I did put on special "shoes" that day. Ephesians 6:15 describes them this way:

And, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

Let’s break that down. It basically means, "Always be prepared to share the good news of peace with God and total well-being through Him."

Whether you’re headed to high school or just playing ball with your friend at the park, strap on the "shoes" He’s given you. Isaiah 52:7 says,

How beautiful . . . are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."

I’m not telling you to cart around a heavy Bible or plaster your car with bumper stickers or leave tracts in the girls’ bathroom. I’m asking you to share the good news of happiness with those who have no true hope. Don’t let the names and labels you might be called keep you from sharing the fact that God has gone to crazy lengths to have a relationship with anyone who will accept His free gift of forgiveness through faith in His Son, Jesus.

After all, this was Jesus’ last instruction to us before He returned to heaven to prepare His home for us:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19–20).

So how about it? What keeps you from coming out Christian?

The world is trying to shove Christians back in the closet, but I’m calling you out today. Will you join me?

Coming Out Christian” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Share this →Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestPrint this page