Paula Writes Header

Everyday Life

Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?

Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?

I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples . . . it’s one of the main perks of living in Michigan—they grow some mean fruit here!

In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (v. 33).

(This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right . . . by its apples!) Jesus continues,

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).

(Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.”) Jesus goes on to explain,

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).

Let’s break that down from the top.

Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.

Hockey Puck Apples

Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.

Ta-da!

From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close! And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.

Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.

We Need a Heart Transplant

But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,

“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.

Jeremiah 17:9 says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the very core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)

We’re told that our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.

Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves . . . or garbage dumps. Each of us can only “bring forth”—fling out—whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).

So I need to ask . . . what are your words telling you about your heart?

Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant!
Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Quiz Time! Are Your Words Nasty or Nice?

Quiz Time! Are Your Words Nasty or Nice?

Quiz time, y’all!

I just recently finished Mary Kassian’s Bible study, Conversation Peace, and it smoked me. I didn’t think I had real problems with my words, but boy, was I wrong!

How about you? Could your speech use a little (or a lot!) of transformation? Take this twenty-question quiz from Mary Kassian to find out:

  1. Do you gossip? Do you enjoy repeating the latest news or rumor you heard about another person? (See Prov. 11:13; 20:19; 26:20.)
  2. Do you slander? Do you say things about others behind their backs that you wouldn’t say to their faces? (See Ps. 50:20; 52:4; Prov. 11:9.)
  3. Do you nag? Do you repeat your desires and opinions to others until you get what you want? (See Prov. 21:19; 26:21).
  4. Do you meddle? Do you make the interaction between other people your concern? Do you try to referee arguments or act as a go-between? (See Prov. 26:17).
  5. Do you brag? Do you seek to present your skills, your experiences or your accomplishments as greater than they really are? (See Prov. 14:23; 25:27; 27:2).
  6. Do you lie? Are you less than totally honest? Do you misrepresent yourself, others, or events? (Ps. 120:3; 34:13; Prov. 12:19, 22; 26:18–19; Eph. 4:15, 25).
  7. Are you quarrelsome? Do you feel a need to be proved right or to have the last word? Do you argue? (See Prov. 17:14; 20:3; 26:21; 27:15; Phil. 2:14).
  8. Do you respond in anger? Are you hot-tempered or defensive? Are you easily provoked? (See Prov. 15:1; 29:11, 22; Eph. 4:26–27).
  9. Do you talk too much? Do you babble? Do you spend a lot of time on the phone or in chat rooms? Do you monopolize conversations with your opinions? Do you interrupt? (See Eccl. 10:11; Prov. 15:28; 29:20; Jas. 1:19).
  10. Are you reluctant to admit you’re wrong? Do you fail to ask forgiveness? Do you refuse to admit your error when you feel another’s error is greater? (Prov. 29:23; Jas. 5:16).
  11. Do you betray a confidence? Do you repeat matters that you should keep private? If someone has failed or injured you, do you feel compelled to tell someone else about it? (See Prov. 6:19; 17:19; 19:11; 25:9–10).
  12. Do you criticize? Find fault? Focus on the bad instead of the good? Do you see people’s shortcomings more than their strengths? (Ps. 41:5; Rom. 1:30).
  13. Do you complain? Do you bewail the circumstances you find yourself in? Do you let others know that you resent being inconvenienced? (See Phil. 2:14).
  14. Do you make assumptions and assume the worst about other people’s motives and intentions? (See 1 Tim. 6:3–4; Prov. 29:20).
  15. Do you hold grudges? Focus on past wrongs? Accuse others? (Prov. 11:12).
  16. Are you sarcastic? Do you mock others? Do you use negative humor to put others down? (See Prov. 15:1; 16:27).
  17. Are you malicious? Are your words intended to cut and wound? Are your words harsh? (See Prov. 11:12; 15:1; 16:27; 17:4).
  18. Are you insincere in your compliments? Do you flatter others for your own advantage? (See Prov. 26:28; 29:5).
  19. Is your speech filthy? Do you swear or use foul language? Do you use the latest slang or crass expressions? (See Prov. 4:24; 10:31–32; Col. 3:8).
  20. Do you fail to listen? Do you jump to conclusions before you are sure that you have heard and understood? (See Prov. 18:13; 19:20; Jas. 1:19).

How’d you score? If you suddenly realize you have a problem with your words, come back next week as we drill down to the root of those nasty words.
Quiz Time! Are Your Words Nasty or Nice?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Little Is Big with God in the Mix

Ever thought you were “above” a certain task? Ever despised the “little” things (or people)? Yeah, me too. But that just shows I don’t have a clue. “Little” is BIG with God in the mix!

What if you were to give that “little” thing in your life–that thing that seems unglamorous or less than–your all today, knowing God is in the business of transforming little into much?

Would you share your “little thing” below so we can all join you in asking God to multiply it for His fame and renown?

PS: Catch my interview today and tomorrow on FamilyLife Today as I talk with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine about parenting girls (especially the ones you don’t think are boy-crazy!).

When Your Plans Fall To Pieces . . . You Don’t Have To

When Your Plans Fall to Pieces . . . You Don't Have To

 

The older you get, the more you’ll realize that most of the time your plans will fall to pieces. Watch this video to learn why YOU don’t have to fall to pieces when that happens.

Love this post? Share it! Here’s a tweet you can totally steal from us:

When your plans fall apart, you don’t have to. Find out more on @lywbblog today.

When Your Plans Fall To Pieces . . . You Don’t Have To” was orginally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com

Sorry to Break It to You, But . . .

Sorry to Break It to You, But . . .

Have you ever seen the movie Aladdin? Here’s a short clip where Genie reveals to Aladdin that Aladdin is Genie’s master, and Genie’s job is to grant Aladdin any three wishes he wants.

Can you imagine?! Having a genie that would grant you any three wishes? How amazing would that be? I’ll take . . .

God’s Not Your Personal Genie

Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but unlike Aladdin, you’re not “the king, the boss, the shah.”

God doesn’t exist to grant your wishes . . . you exist to carry out His.

And God is not your maître d’ or your personal genie.

Actually, it’s quite the other way around.

God is “the king, the boss, the shah.”

And you’re His servant.

In Revelation 19:16, we’re told that Jesus is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” It doesn’t get any higher than that. Jesus is the greatest. The highest. The bestest. (Sorry, I know that’s not a word, but I just had to.) As the King of kings, He deserves our respect, our obedience, our honor, and our celebration.

Fact is, God doesn’t exist to grant your wishes . . . you exist to carry out His.

History = His story

Even your life story is His story of rescue and redemption.

Your life is not about you but about God.

We exist for God; He doesn’t exist for us. It even says so in 1 Corinthians 8:6:

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

God doesn’t need us; we need God.

We forget this, though, all the time. And instead of remembering that He created us, that He’s our Master and we’re His servants, we shake our fists at God when He doesn’t fulfill our plans like Genie would.

Do you relate, or is it just me? Have you ever wished God was a little more like Genie?
Now that you know the truth, though, will you begin to live for and serve this wise and loving King? Or will you continue to insist on living like you’re “the king, the boss, the shah”?

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Rom. 11:33–36, emphasis added).

Sorry to Break It to You, But . . .” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com

Sympathy . . . or Superiority?

Sympathy . . . or Superiority?

This blog post won’t paint me in a good light. But that’s okay, because it’s true. And the truth is always good, right?

My Superior Response

Recently I got an email from a young girl asking for my advice. I chuckled inwardly when I read it because it seemed so . . . juvenile. Oh to have problems like that again! I refrained from laughingly sharing her email with someone else (thank goodness!), but that didn’t change my feelings of superiority inside.

God Exposes My Superiority Complex

Oh, I never would have called it superiority. But this morning the Holy Spirit called me out on it as I read Hebrews 4:14–16:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Our Sympathetic God

These verses encourage us to run toward God’s throne of grace with confidence. Why? Because He’s a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses!

He sympathizes because He’s been there, too. He willingly laid His position aside (as the King of Kings so high, high above us) and became one of us. Actually, He became a servant to us. He spent time with us, listened to us, taught us, washed our dirty feet (and our dirty hearts!), and healed us.

‘Cause He’s Been There

And while He was with us, hell threw every temptation it had to offer directly His way. Hebrews 4:15 tells us Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

What does that have to do with me and my big, fat superiority?

Everything.

God’s Shocking Sympathy

Jesus, too, was tempted just like that young girl was. Like I was. But He didn’t sin in that temptation.

In the past, I’ve been tempted just like that young girl. But I sinned in that temptation. Sympathy should come easy for me, then, right?

Jesus, too, was tempted just like that young girl was. Like I was. But He didn’t sin in that temptation. If the same were true for me, I’d really, really feel superior! Not Him, though. He still sympathizes with our weaknesses, in spite of His perfect record of success.

Turning From Superiority to Sympathy

How quickly I forget that I’m a recipient of His grace. I’ve made it out of that pit—not on my own—but only ’cause Jesus entered my pit for me so I might stand on His shoulders and climb out.

Shame on me for thinking myself superior to any person because His grace has carried me past a particular struggle. Oh for His sympathy in place of my superiority!

Prayers Welcome

Would you pray for me in this? As you can see, I’m a girl who’s still in process, just like you. Good thing for me, Jesus sympathizes with my superiority in spite of His perfect humility.

You, Too?

How about you? Maybe you don’t have girls emailing you for advice about a past struggle. But have you secretly thought you were better than others because you weren’t tempted by what tempted them?

Do you ever chalk up other girls’ problems as just silly drama compared to the challenges you face? Where do you see superiority popping up in your life? And how might Jesus’ sympathy for you change the way you view others’ struggles?

 

Sympathy…or Superiority?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

4 Unlikely Places to Find a Great Friend

4 Unlikely Places to Find a Great Friend

 

Where can you find good, wise friends when the pickins’ are slim?

After reading “Cool Friends . . . or Fool Friends?” last week, maybe you wondered, But if I’m choosy and don’t become besties with the “cool fool friends,” where will I find any good friends?

I’m so glad you asked! Here are four unlikely places to find a great friend:

That brother or sister of yours is handcrafted by God and, believe it or not, will one day probably be one of your best friends.

1) At home. I can hear you groaning, “But I hate my brother! He’s so annoying!” Trust me, I get it. Check out “My Annoying Younger Sister . . . and the Evil Ogre Sister!” post for more on the hateful ways I treated my sister when we were growing up.

Here’s the thing, though. That brother or sister of yours is handcrafted by God and, believe it or not, will one day probably be one of your best friends!

In fact, did you know that the Bible says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17)? Part of the reason God gave you siblings is so that you would have someone to walk through the peaks and valleys of life with!

High school and college friends will move far away, but you’ll keep seeing your family on birthdays and holidays. Why not begin to not just survive in the same house without killing them, but actually . . . befriend them? (By the way, this applies to your parents as well as your siblings!)

2) At church. So they’re different from you, those people you sit next to Sunday after Sunday. Fact is, you’ll be spending a lot more than holidays and birthdays with them—you’ll be living with them . . . forever! In Christ they’re family now—a tighter bond even than your own flesh-and-blood relatives.

Forever is a long time. Why not learn how to get along with them now? I wish I’d understood years ago that friends don’t have to be your age. Read “An Unlikely Friendship” to hear about a dear friend of mine who is thirty (yes, thirty!) years older than me.

PS: Did you know you should seek out friends who are older than you to learn from (Titus 2:3–5)? Also, don’t forget that you’re an “older woman” to someone. Do you have any younger friends who can learn from your example?

3) In the Book. Proverbs 7:4 tells us to “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend.” The Word of Truth (another name for the Bible) is chock full of wisdom. Consider it your dear friend, and it will lead you well. Are you spending time with and listening to this friend?

4) In God. Did you know that God has friends?! He called Abraham His friend (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8), and He talked with Moses face to face, the way good friends talk (Ex. 33:11). Abraham and Moses weren’t His only friends. You can be His friend, too!

Believe in the One who sacrificed more at the cross for you than any friend ever will, and you will find Him to be the best friend you’ll ever know.

Psalm 25:14 says, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). And what does He command?

The secret is found in James 2:23: “‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God.” Believe in the One who sacrificed more at the cross for you than any friend ever will, and you will find Him to be the best friend you’ll ever know. He will never leave you, never let you down, never stop loving you.

I’d love to hear from you. Which of these four friends are friends of yours?

 

4 Unlikely Places to Find a Great Friend” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com

Cool Friends . . . or Fool Friends?

Cool Friends . . . or Fool Friends?

 

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Prov. 13:20).

I’ll never forget the fifth grade talent show. Samantha Gilman offered to turn the pages while I played a difficult classical piano piece. But I was ashamed to sit next to her. She was a Christian; she was a friend. But she wasn’t cool, and she didn’t fit in at school.

Truth was, I wasn’t all that cool, so I didn’t want to be associated with her. I wanted to become more cool, not less! So I told Samantha no, I’d be just fine.

And fine I was—for a few measures. But then, just as I was turning the page, my book crashed down on the keys, interrupting my performance with a jarring bang. So much for my cool factor.

The notes swam as I finished the rest of the piece through my tears. Why oh why hadn’t I gratefully accepted Samantha’s help? Oh yeah . . . I was concerned about how she would make me look.

Instead of girls like Samantha, I wanted the “cool” kids as friends. Only problem was, the “cool” kids were also what the Bible calls . . . “fools.” They didn’t fear God, and they weren’t looking out for my best interests.

One “friend” convinced me to date a non-Christian guy behind my parents’ backs. Another “cool fool” sneaked a pair of short shorts to school for me to wear without my parents knowing about it.

How to Spot a Cool Fool

Here are just a few ways you can spot a “cool fool.”

A cool fool:

Choosing Your Direction

Whether you realize it or not, your friends are taking you somewhere. They’re either leading you closer to God or further away from Him. So which direction are you headed? What do you look for in your friends?

Take it from me: Don’t think more highly of yourself than you should. Receive help from the “Samanthas” in your life, and steer clear of the cool fools.

 

Cool Friends . . . or Fool Friends?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com

A Return to the Book


I’ve drifted from the Book.

Oh, I still read it nearly every day. I even make sure it’s on top of my stack of books, out of reverence for it (or is it just habit now?).

But my hunger and reverence for it has waned. There are a myriad of reasons for that, but here’s a big one.

As you probably know, Christians disagree about how we hear from God today. I have Gospel-believing friends on both sides of the fence—some who claim to be led by God’s Spirit as they listen to Him throughout their day, and other Gospel-believing friends who claim that the Word of God is the only way God speaks to His people today.

As a communicator, I’ve had to learn how to carefully nuance how I talk about hearing from God. That, for a girl who’s naturally more of a feeler than a thinker, and more gray than black and white, has felt stifling and rigid at times.

It has been confusing, too. Which is it? Is it the Spirit who leads us . . . or is it the Word?

This past Sunday, my pastor preached on the Word of God. This stood out,

The further I move from the written Word of God, the less confidence I can have that I’ve heard a word from God.

After his sermon, I went back over my notes and looked up all the Scriptures (one of my favorite Sunday “rhythms”), and I stumbled on 2 Peter 1:21 where we’re told how the Book was written,

No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Oh, yea! I was reminded that the Word IS the Spirit’s personally-breathed-out words. Oh to treasure and revere it more.

Then this morning, my ears perked up when Nancy Guthrie unpacked Nehemiah 8:1,

All the people [50,000 of them] gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.

Picture Times Square on New Years Eve, except this crowd was gathered to hear a book read rather than to watch a ball drop. We don’t know for sure, but maybe one piped up, “Bring out the Book!” And another and then another pitched in until the whole crowd cried, “Bring out the Book! Bring out the Book!”

Oh, that God might raise up women in our day who are hungry for the book,” Nancy said.

Yes, Lord. I want to return to the Book. I want to be a woman of the Book. Not a rigid, puffed up woman, but a God-knowing, God-fearing, God-hearing woman.

I still don’t have all the answers, but this I do know. The Spirit still speaks today through His personal, living words in that Book.

And I am listening.

A Return to the Book” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com

Redefining a Crummy Day

Redefining a Crummy Day

 

Exhibit A, Your Crummy Day

“How was your day?” your mom hollers from the laundry room as she separates towels from underwear, sheets from jeans.

“Crummy,” you snap as you pillage the fridge for . . . well, something more than mayonnaise, a bag of carrots, or a carton of eggs. You’ve got to be kidding, you mutter under your breath, turning to the cupboards.

Exhibit B, A Better Day

“How’s it going?” your friend asks, her voice muffled from inside her locker, searching for her chemistry book.

“Great,” you exclaim as you turn to her, a giant smile spreading across your face. “This has been the best day ever!”


Have you ever stopped to think about what makes a good day . . . good? Is it an A on your World History quiz or a Facebook “like” from that guy who’s never far from your mind?

How about a crummy day? Is it waking up ten minutes before the bus comes or spilling orange juice on your favorite shirt?

Well, what if . . .

What if a good day has nothing to do with your circumstances?

What if a good day is waking up alive?

What if a good day is knowing you’re never alone, no matter how lonely you feel?

What if a good day is remembering that the best is yet to come?

Most of the time, our definition of a crummy day isn’t really all that crummy in light of God’s goodness to us.

What if a good day is not based on how much you accomplish, but on how much Jesus accomplished for you on the cross?

What if a good day is knowing that every crummy circumstance that crosses your path is something God promises to work together for your good and His glory?

What if a good day isn’t attention from a guy or affirmation from your boss, but the steady, constant love of your heavenly Father?

What if . . . what if this day isn’t all that crummy after all?

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps. 118:24).

(Interesting timing . . . just as I was polishing off this post, I heard of a friend’s son who lost thousands of dollars after unknowingly buying a stolen vehicle. Turns out there are crummy days. Really crummy days. I don’t mean to downplay that. I just think that most of the time, our definition of a crummy day isn’t really all that crummy in light of God’s goodness to us.)

How about you? How do you usually define a “good” or a “crummy” day?

nbsp;

Redefining a Crummy Day” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com