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Staring Death in the Face

Staring Death in the Face

My husband and I have been staring death in the face for the past couple of months.

We were first reminded of its presence the afternoon our next-door neighbor told us his wife was going downhill quickly after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

Death called again the day we noticed the medical van in their driveway advertising hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen. Then came the newspaper obituary and the knock on our door: Our neighbor’s wife had died at home on Saturday, surrounded by her family.

A couple weeks after the visitation, death visited again. This time it was our neighbor’s dad who was taken.

And suddenly I can’t escape the cold, hard truth that all of us share this destiny of death. Every time I look at my neighbor’s house, I am reminded of the reality of death. And while none of this is pleasant, I am glad for this sobering reminder. As the teacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:2:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

The wise will live with the reality of death ever before them.

Do you remember the motto, YOLO, that gained popularity back in 2012? “You only live once” served as encouragement for reckless living and obscured our destiny of death.

If we had a chance to sit down with the writer of the wisdom book Ecclesiastes, I believe he’d tell us that YOLO had it all wrong. Rather, our mantra for life should be YODO: “You only die once.”

And After Death . . .

Why should we think about our inevitable death while we’re still alive, even though none of us really want to? Because we have a Creator, and we will meet Him face to face on the other side of death. Then we will give account for the way we lived:

It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Heb. 9:27).

That’s why, after twelve chapters, the author of Ecclesiastes sums up the teacher’s words this way:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccl. 12:13–14, emphasis added).

So if you want to continue living as if YOLO is your motto, go for it. But don’t say you weren’t warned:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment (Eccl. 11:9, emphasis added).

The teacher tells us that we are to enjoy good while we live, recognizing that these thing are God’s gifts to us, remnants from life before humanity’s fall into sin.

I wonder, when you examine your life, have you been living as if YOLO were the motto of your life . . . or YODO? Are you living recklessly, mindless of your Creator and Judgment Day where you’ll give account for every thought and deed?

How would living with the reminder of death and judgment ever before you change the way you live each day?

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How to Tell if He’s a Christian

How to Tell if He’s a Christian

Sweet girl,

I hear a really nice guy has been showing you a lot of attention lately. I know you’ve gone on a couple dates, and you like him a lot. He’s told you he’s a Christian, but you’re not sure how strong he is in his faith.

Maybe he is a Christian; maybe he isn’t. I don’t know. But here are a few thing I do know . . .

Be on the lookout for the fruit of faith. Anyone can claim to be a Christian (just like anyone can claim to be an astrophysicist), but there should be
evidence of Christ’s transformative work in His followers. James (Jesus’ brother) puts it like this:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? . . . So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (2:14, 17, emphasis added).

Pay attention to how this guy lives. Is he living like a young man who has been redeemed from the slave block of sin? Or is he still living like a slave to sin (Rom. 6:15–23)? Put him to the test (1 John 4:1). I’ve included one below.

You shouldn’t have to wonder if this guy is a Christian or not. It should be obvious. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

No, he’s not going to be perfect. Yes, we’re all in process. But if he truly has the Holy Spirit of God living in him, he will look more and more like His adoptive Father.

If he truly has the Holy Spirit of God living in him, he will look more and more like His adoptive Father.

Trust me on this one. You don’t want someone who maybe, possibly, probably, hopefully is a Christian. One who just barely squeezes by. You want a thriving Christian. A white-hot Christian. A young man who is well on his way to being able to lead you spiritually.

So here are a few questions to ask about him, straight from 1 John:

  • Does he walk in “light,” or does he walk in “darkness” (1 John 1:6–7)?
  • Does he confess his sins, or does he claim not to have sin in his life (1 John 1:8–10)?
  • Does he keep God’s commandments, or does he live differently than Jesus lived (1 John 2:3–6)?
  • Does he love others, or does he hate others (1 John 2:9–11, 4:7–21)?
  • Does he love the Father, or does he love the world and the things in the world (1 John 2:15–17)?
  • Does he confess that Jesus is God, or does he deny that Jesus is God (1 John 2:22–23)?
  • Does he practice righteousness (1 John 2:29) or does he make a practice of sinning (1 John 3:4–10)?
  • Does he believe that Jesus came to earth and took on human flesh, or does he not believe this (1 John 4:2–3)?
  • Does he have the Spirit of God? The Son of God? Or is he just doing life on his own (1 John 3:24; 4:12)?

If the majority of your answers were on the right side of the comma rather than the left, this guy is not for you, nice as he might seem. God is the
treasure in this life—and in the life to come—and you will want a man who will consistently point you to this treasure . . . through his words and his life.

How about you? Are you currently dating or considering dating someone you have doubts about? Where does this post find you today? I’d love to hear from you.

How to Tell if He’s a Christian was originally published on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

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The Surprising Meaning Behind Those Famous Modesty Verses

The Surprising Meaning Behind Those Famous Modesty Verses

One of you recently asked, “How do you live 1 Peter 3:3–4? I have an idea, but I’m not sure.”

You’ve probably heard these verses before, but here’s a refresher:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

How do you live these verses?

Not without 1 Peter 3:1–2 or 1 Peter 3:5–6. Context is critical to understanding what the Bible means. So let’s check out the surrounding verses. The chapter begins:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

Ah! So Peter is writing to married women.

Sweet! So I don’t have to listen to and apply this passage yet because I’m not married, right?

Hardly!

But before we apply it to ourselves, let’s make sure we understand the original meaning of this text.

First Peter 3:3–4 is followed by these verses:

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Yowza. This passage is all about . . . submission! Before you start sending me hate mail, let me point out some good news:

  1. In the context of marriage, we are only commanded to submit to one man, our own husband. You don’t have to submit to other women’s husbands (re-read the first part of verse 1 to see this for yourself), although part of being a Christian is respecting and considering the needs of all people.
  2. God isn’t asking us to do anything He hasn’t already done. Did you notice the way 1 Peter 3 started with the word “Likewise”? Peter is comparing our submission to someone else’s. But whose? Flip the page in your Bible to the end of chapter two for the answer.

We are all called to submit to the authorities over us. Not only to those who are “good and gentle,” but also to those who are “unjust.”

Why?

Because Christ, our Lord, did so for you and me:

Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21–23).

Obviously there’s a whole lot more to get out of this text, but let me stop and try to answer this girl’s question about how to live out 1 Peter 3:3–4 as a single. I’d suggest starting with this:

  1. Submit to the authorities who are currently in your life while ultimately entrusting yourself to your heavenly Father. Make your dad and mom’s job easy. Seek to be easy to lead.
  2. Remember that your beautiful face will eventually go, but your character will remain. Don’t trust in your outer beauty to capture and keep a man.
  3. Ask God to help you not fear anything that’s frightening. Seek to grow your trust in Him so you don’t have to trust in yourself during frightening times, but can throw yourself on Him.

Now that you know a bit more of the context of 1 Peter 3:3–4, how else do you think you can begin to become this kind of reverent, fearless, God-trusting woman?

The Surprising Meaning Behind Those Famous Modesty Verses was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

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Nehemiah: And I Care Because . . .?

Nehemiah: And I Care Because . . .?

I admit it. When I saw the theme of this year’s Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, I wasn’t overly enthused. Nehemiah? And I care because . . .? (Okay, I didn’t consciously think that, but I might as well have!)

And I Care Because . . .?

Despite being raised on the Bible and attending Bible college, I struggled to remember anything significant about Nehemiah.

So once I’d cleaned the house (Dad taught me well: it’s always worth it to come home to a clean house!), emptied the fridge, set up my “Out of office” messages, washed my laundry, packed my suitcase, and made it through security with minutes to spare, I bypassed my borrowed copy of Grapes of Wrath and dusted off the ancient book of Nehemiah instead.

After re-familiarizing myself with his story, I began to get excited. Still, I was skeptical. Would the speakers really be able to show us the gospel through this old book? I prayed they would.

Kathy Keller was up first, and . . . she did it! I wish I could share more, but let me give you an oh-so-brief synopsis:

I Care Because . . .

The book begins with Nehemiah receiving horrible news:

The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Neh. 1:3).

Whoop-de-do, you say. But it was more than just a longing for his national homeland that made Nehemiah weep and mourn for days. Nehemiah understood what this really meant. What was really at stake.

Without a secure wall to defend themselves, there would be no permanent restoration of Israelite culture. They would be assimilated into other cultures, and there would be no more Israelite nation to bring forth God’s promised Messiah.

Nehemiah understood God’s Word. He knew the restoration of Jerusalem would one day climax in the Messiah prophesied since Genesis 3.

So, because of his understanding of and confidence in God’s Word, he took radical action.

After four months of prayer (yes, months!), He risked his own position—and even his life–by asking his employer (King Artexerxes) to reverse his decision to halt the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah decided to leave the world he’d known, the privilege and security of serving in the king’s palace, and head out on an uncomfortable, dangerous, opposed mission. But he did it based on God’s redemptive promises and plans.

If Nehemiah hadn’t left the privilege and safety of the palace for back-breaking labor, Jerusalem wouldn’t have been rebuilt. Nehemiah was God’s instrument at this period in history, but his story is submerged in the greater story.

Jesus is the greater Nehemiah who left the right hand of the King to join the blue-collar labor force as a carpenter, a builder. He came not just at the risk of death, but at the certainty of it. If he hadn’t done it, your salvation and my salvation would not have been accomplished.

So please don’t hold it against me. Turns out I do care! I care about Nehemiah, not ’cause it’s about Nehemiah, but because it’s ultimately about God’s grand redemptive plan.

Nehemiah understood God’s Word, and he acted in confidence based on God’s Word, in spite of the dismal state of current affairs. I wonder . . . Do you and I know God’s Word in such a way that we will act boldly and confidently—even when it looks like God’s purposes have been thwarted?

Nehemiah: And I Care Because . . .?” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Myth of My Strength

The Myth of My Strength

Do you think of yourself as a strong or a weak woman?

Personally, I’ve counted myself a strong one.

I was the girl who ran around flexing her biceps, challenging boys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranging my heavy bedroom furniture all by myself.

I was the young woman who had a scheduled activity on her calendar every night of the week. I was the woman who wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I was the woman who always, always pushed through.

But then last month I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall,

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”

My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did.

I wasn’t so sure.

God, do You think of me as weak or strong? And how should I think of myself?

Taking Cues from a “Strong” Man and a “Weak” Man

I went to God’s Word for answers, starting with the strongest man I could think of: Samson. You know the beast—tearing a roaring lion to pieces with his bare hands, striking down 1,000 enemies with a donkey’s jawbone, pushing down a house killing 3,000 party-goers.

Here’s the surprising pattern I found. Just before Samson displays great strength, this is what happens just before:

“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:6).

“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:19).

“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 15:14).

It was always God’s strength Samson displayed; never his own. God is the strong One. Even Samson was weak apart from God.

Then I re-read the familiar story of David and Goliath. Anyone observing the battle scene that day would’ve put their money on the intimidating war champion Goliath, not the young, inexperienced David. Goliath had complete confidence in his strength; David had complete confidence in his living God. And at the end of the short fight, David was the unlikely victor.

I Am Weak, but He Is Strong

Funny how many times I’ve gotten it mixed up. I’ve considered myself strong and believed God to be weak. Nothing could be further from the truth:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28, emphasis added).

God’s strength will never, ever give out.

Me on the other hand, I’m weak. My strength is finite.

What freedom that realization brings.

Strength comes when we first own up to our own weakness. (That’s ’cause we don’t rely on God when we consider ourselves strong.) But in our weakness, as we depend on our strong God, His strength flows through to us. Catch Paul’s personal testimony of this:

“We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8–10).

And then there’s my favorite passage from this past month,

“He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:29–31).

How is this strength-for-weakness exchange possible?

Strong Made Weak; Weak Made Strong

It’s all because the Strong One was made weak so we, the weak, could be made strong.

Check out this baffling verse:

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25, emphasis added).

The weakness of God? But God isn’t weak!

Study the context, and you’ll see this verse refers to the cross. The world judges Jesus weak and pathetic, hanging there exposed and bleeding. “Weakness,” they spit.

But to us who are being saved, we gaze at the cross and celebrate. “Strength!” we shout.

God refuses to save Himself so He might save us. The Strong One is made weak so we, the weak, can be made strong.

What weakness can you boast about today? How might God want to showcase His strength through your particular weakness?

Don’t get it mixed up like I did.

I am weak, but He is strong.

The Myth of My Strength” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

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Hives, the ER, and the Shield of Faith

 

Hives, the ER, and the Shield of Faith

 

Hey, girls, I’ve missed you! Now you’ll know why I disappeared for a month—and why I’m so glad to be back with you.

This series on spiritual armor just got real personal.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been writing about how to fight our spiritual enemies or if it’s because I’ve been asking God to root out every bit of pride in me, but either way-this past month 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.

So rather than writing a theoretical post about the different pieces of the armor of God, I’m going to focus on one piece I used a lot this past month—the shield of faith. 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 (emphasis added).

Taking up the shield of faith is just 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.

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