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Two Letters to My Landlord

Two Letters to My Landlord

I moved into a little apartment this past year, and ever since I’ve been praying that my landlord would come to know Jesus.

Are you sharing Jesus Christ with others, or are you settling for something less?

I’ve committed to leaving the place better than when I came and to being a thoughtful tenant. After all, everything I do reflects on Christ, as my landlord knows I’m a Christian.

Still, living well is not ultimately enough to share Christ with someone. People have to hear the gospel before they can understand it (Rom. 10:13–14).

My First Letter

So, one month when I sat down to write my landlord a note to accompany my rent check, I tried slipping God into my talk of cable cords, nail holes, and trashcans. (By way of background, my landlord had slipped a short note in my mailbox apologizing for not getting some work done for me, as her dad was sick.)

My note went like this:

No worries at all. Your care for your dad is infinitely more important than cable cords and nail holes!

In fact, it’s an example to me of how I desire to live in the future. And it’s beautiful to God, who commands us to honor our parents and promises to bless us when we do (Exodus 20:12).

Praying for you both. Let me know if I can do anything to help on my end (sorry, you beat me to the trash last night!).

Loving my apartment!

Gratefully,

Paula

Thankfully, my mom always taught me to sit on a message before sending it. As I thought about the note I’d written, I started to question . . .

  • Is anything that’s done apart from faith in Christ really beautiful to God? (Heb. 11:6).
  • Would this note give my landlord false confidence that she had an “in” with God apart from Christ?
  • Would this note ultimately be helpful to her if it didn’t point her to Christ?

Take Two

So I took another stab at it:

Thanks so much for patching those holes and removing the cable cords for me. And no worries about not getting to it until now. Your care for your dad is infinitely more important than cable cords and nail holes!

In fact, it’s an example to me of how I desire to live in the future, and it reminds me of Jesus. John 19 records that He made sure His friend would take care of His mom after He left earth—and He saw to this while hanging on a cross as the substitute for the sins of all who would put their trust in Him. How amazing to be thinking of others while in such agony!

All that to say, I’m grateful for you, and I’m loving my apartment.

I still need to get you the checklist—hopefully by early next week. Sorry for the delay (and for not beating you to the trash this week!)

Gratefully,

Paula

Why do I share this with you? Not because it was the perfect note. I realize it was . . . zealous. Possibly too much so. But:

  • Did it point her to the beauty of Christ?
  • And is time short?
  • And could I love her in any better way than sharing Christ with her?

I’ve been camping out in Colossians lately, which is quite possibly the most Christ-centered letter in the Bible. Paul wrote this letter not to his unbelieving landlord, but to the believing church at Colosse. He wrote it to urge them not to add to Christ. Christ is enough; Christ is everything:

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Let’s make sure we’re not inadvertently doing the same thing by failing to point others to Christ. Let’s not forget the main point. Rather, the main Person. All of Scripture points to Jesus! (Luke 24:27).

Are you sharing Jesus Christ with others, or are you settling for something less?

Two Letters to My Landlord was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

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When Another’s Words Sting

When Another’s Words Sting

Ouch, that stung.

Over the years, people’s words have wounded my soul more times than I care to count. That’s largely my fault, as I tend to be overly-sensitive (and overly-proud!).

As I wiped my tears away after one such painful exchange, I picked up Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ four-week devotional, The Power of Words, and found my perspective changing as I read this:


Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips (Ps. 141:3).

Nancy pointed out,


Notice where the guard is posted. Not at the ear—to protect us from being hurt by words we might hear, or at the heart—to shield us from the wounds that are sometimes caused by what others do.

Rather, the Psalmist asked God to post a sentinel at his own mouth knowing that the greatest danger he faced was not what others might do to him, but rather, what he might say that would harm others. (p. 32)

Really? Suddenly I began to wonder, “How’s my own speech?

  1. Do I:
    • Subtly put people down when talking about them to others, or
    • Build them up when talking about them to others?
  2. Am I:
    • Quick to hurry people along so I can get back to my schedule and tasks?
    • Fully engaged with people when they stop by to talk?
  3. Do I:
    • Assume the best about people’s motives?
    • Assume the worst about people’s motives?
  4. Do I regularly:
    • Speak words that encourage those I live and work with?
    • Speak words that discourage those I live and work with?

If you feel like a giant failure in this area, know this: Love, kindness, and self-control are all natural fruit of the Spirit. You and I don’t have to labor to produce kindness on our own—it’s a natural outflow of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we crucify the flesh and allow Christ to live through us.

By His power, we can actively put Philippians 4:8 into practice by thinking thoughts that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” The result will be words that give grace, strength, and encouragement to others (see Eph. 4:29 and 1 Peter 3:8–10).

Nancy recommends trying these phrases out on the people closest to us:

  • I love you.
  • I’m praying for you.
  • I’m so proud of you.
  • I’m sorry I treated you that way.
  • Would you please forgive me?
  • I appreciate you.
  • You’re such a blessing!

Who can you encourage with a kind word today?

For extra encouragement in this area, listen to “Conversation Peace” with Mary Kassian on Revive Our Hearts. Along with the program, there’s a new 30-Day Power of Words email challenge you can take!

When Another’s Words Sting” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

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How to Catch a Glimpse of God

How to Catch a Glimpse of God

I balked when Erin Davis (LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com blog manager) asked me to write a post about why I read the Bible. Sounds simple enough, right? But my mind went blank. Utterly empty.

I knew why I used to read the Bible:

  • All good Christians I knew read the Bible.
  • I was told I should.
  • I thought God would be happy with me if I did.
  • I felt closer to God when I did something “spiritual” (reading my Bible being at the top of the list).
  • It was tradition.

But now I understand that Christianity isn’t about what I do but about what Christ has done on my behalf. So why do I read the Bible now? I wasn’t sure.

I thought about it for a few weeks, and slowly I began to realize why I read the Bible.

How can I become conformed to an image that I never behold?

I read the Bible to catch a glimpse of God’s beauty, because that’s where God has revealed Himself. Then, as I get to know God, I try to imitate Him, and He begins to make me beautiful like Him.

Here’s how this looked this past week.

Someone close to me hurt me. I knew in my head that their sin wasn’t a personal attack against me, but it sure felt that way. I wanted to lash out at them with hurtful words, but instead, I grabbed my Bible, journal, and pen. The Lord quickly showed me Himself in John 8:3–7,

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Am I without sin? (No!)

I saw how the religious leaders insisted that others keep the law perfectly, but Jesus (who kept the law perfectly on our behalf!) extended grace to this woman. It reminded me of John 1:17,

The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If Jesus extends grace, and if I am full of Jesus (Col. 2:10), than how can I be anything but gracious?

So now I know. This is why I read the Bible: to gaze on God’s beauty, and to become beautiful like Him.

Why do you read the Bible?

PS: I have to thank Jen Wilkin for helping me see this more clearly. Here’s just a snippet from her excellent book Women of the Word. You should read it!

Someone asked me recently if I was a God-worshipper or a Bible worshipper. . . . My answer was simple: I want to be conformed to the image of God. How can I become conformed to an image that I never behold?

I am not a Bible-worshipper, but I cannot truly be a God-worshipper without loving the Bible deeply and reverently. Otherwise, I worship an unknown god. A Bible-worshipper loves an object. A God-worshipper loves a person.

How to Catch a Glimpse of God” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

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The Read-It-Like-It-Is Quiz

The Read-It-Like-It-Is Quiz

Yesterday I shared how as a teen I pulled verses from God’s Word about my crooked legs without looking at their context. I encouraged you to begin the hard work of searching for the author’s actual meaning by digging into the surrounding verses.

Today I want to give you a chance to practice with three verses. Read their context, and then choose which option (“a” or “b”) the author meant. (I know this is hard work, but the more we practice, the easier it gets.) And this is important!

Ready, set, read it like it is!

  1. “She has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2b).Does this mean she’s received:a) Bad from the LORD
    b) Good from the LORD
    Read the context below, and then record your answer in the comments section:

    “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:1–2).

  2. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23).Does this mean:a) Guard your emotions by not getting too close to a guy
    b) Guard yourself from all forms of evil
    Read the context below, and then record your answer in the comments section:

    “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” (Prov. 4:20–27).

  3. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).Does this mean:a) God will bless you with a happy, easy life
    b) God would bring the nation of Judah out of captivity in 70 years
    Read the context below, and then record your answer in the comments section:

    “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile'” (Jer. 29:8–14).

Answer Key

  1. The correct answer is “b.” God’s people had committed all sorts of sins against Him, but He was still wooing her back to Him. This verse doesn’t mean that God punished Israel doubly for her sins, but that God had made a way for her sins to be paid for in full. He had already planned to send Jesus into the world for this very reason.
  2. The correct answer is “b.” The context is clear—this isn’t a verse specifically about relationships. This is an urgent plea from a father to his son to live carefully and to fight sin wholeheartedly.
  3. The correct answer is “b.” In context, this is a specific promise to a specific nation, the nation of Judah. In seventy years, God would free His people from slavery to the Babylonians. God never promises us an easy life here and now, but He does promise forgiveness of sins, a restored relationship with God, and so much more to those who put their full trust in Him.

The Read-It-Like-It-Is Quiz” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

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God’s Word and My Crooked Legs

God’s Word and My Crooked Legs

When I was your age, there was almost nothing I wanted more than straight legs. Okay, maybe a boyfriend. But straight legs were sure to help me get one, or so I thought.

See, I was born bowlegged. Apparently it runs in my family, and I was the one lucky enough to catch that gene. I was almost constantly aware of and insecure about the way my legs bent out at an unnatural angle from my knees down.

That’s why my heart absolutely sunk years ago when I read this verse in God’s Word:

Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? (Ecc. 7:13, emphasis added)

But then, another day, I read Luke 3:5, and my heart leapt. So there was hope for my legs!

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways (emphasis added).

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that these verses had nothing to do with my legs! I was simply reading Scripture out of context. I had no idea how important it was to know what came before and after a verse, so I could figure out what the author actually intended to communicate.

Take Luke 3:5, for example. Here’s the surrounding context:

“The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Check out how Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains this passage:

In the ancient Near East, there was this custom that when a king would be coming to visit his people who lived in the outlying areas, he would send a forerunner in advance to announce that the king was coming to visit his people. That messenger, the herald, would prepare the way for the king’s entourage. It would be like we say today, “Rolling out the red carpet.”

The problem was in those days public roads were almost unknown. In many areas there were hardly roads at all. So the king would send a forerunner to clear away the obstacles, to make a highway, a thoroughfare for the king to come and visit his people.

[Luke] quotes directly from the book of Isaiah saying this prophecy is now being fulfilled with John the Baptist coming to prepare the people for the Lord to visit. The message of John the Baptist was a message of repentance. In preparation for King Jesus coming to this earth, God’s people were to remove every obstacle, to prepare a road in their hearts for His arrival.

Turns out, Luke 3:5 was never intended to give me hope that somehow my bowlegged legs would be straightened. Luke 3:5 was intended to give me hope that a Savior had come—not to straighten my crooked legs, but to straighten my crooked heart!

How about you? Have you been pulling verses from God’s Word without looking at their surrounding context? If so, I encourage you to begin the hard work today of searching for the author’s actual meaning by digging into the surrounding verses. God’s Word is filled with the good news of a specific message—let’s not miss it!

God’s Word and My Crooked Legs” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

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