He must become greater; I must become less

Pride is at my doorstep and lurking around every corner.  It is just waiting to spring out of me like a wretched weed.  I am constantly in battle.  Who will win today?  God or Pride?  Daily, I sway back and forth between insecurity and overconfidence; between humility and pride. Rarely do I hit that sweet spot of exactly where God wants me to be.  As I claw my way to a life completely dependent on God, I long for more of him and less of me.

He must become greater; I must become less.”  John 3:30

My favorite movie of all time is Independence Day.  Humor, aliens, Will Smith . . . . the perfect ingredients for an all time classic!  Whenever I think of havingDSC06832
more of God and less of me, I think of a scene from this movie.  Spaceships are breaking through earth’s atmosphere and positioning themselves all over the world.  One is approaching over a naval submarine in the Pacific ocean. The massive spacecraft overtakes the airspace above.  They look at the infrared radar, but instead of just a dot showing up on it, the entire radar is filled with red.  From top to bottom until it is completely consumed.  That is what I visualize when I think of God consuming me.  I don’t want him to be a couple of dots on my radar.  I need Him to fill the whole thing.

It is such an uphill battle for me to give up control.  Certain circumstances of my childhood caused me to be a loner and very independent.  I have always been a lone wolf; self-sufficient and strong.  Qualities that can easily manifest themselves into pride. I believe that God has blessed me with wisdom.  My life path has not been easy and I’ve had my share of hard knocks.  From difficulty and strife grows the fruit of wisdom.  It’s a gift from God because He uses all things international-development-superherofor good.  But . . . look out!  How easily pride can grow out of one’s ‘wisdom’ like a fungus.

“Your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 8:14

Pride is ‘I can do it on my own’. And, pride is taking the credit for things we could not possibly have done on our own.

“God wants to bear much fruit in every one of our lives. He wants to infuse our prayer lives with inconceivable power, however, He will not tolerate any of our attempts to share His glory. ‘God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble’ (1 Peter 5:5-6).” – Beth Moore

Much of my pride is so subtle that it goes unnoticed by those around me.  I don’t walk around with my nose up in the air. I don’t flaunt myself or try to show off. I have no business or ministry with my name on it, no trophies, no awards; I have never been given raises, or promotions; nor have I ever created great works of art.  So, what would I have to be prideful about?  Ahhh . . . . satan is devious isn’t he?  Even if I never get public recognition for anything, I will struggle with pride.

EVERY Christian deals with pride on some level.  Not just the ‘loud and proud’ Christians, but even the quiet ones that aren’t in the spotlight. You know who you are.  I’m one too.  Pride can be found in anybody.  Pride doesn’t discriminate.  All of us at one time or another will struggle with pride. It is Satan’s greatest tool.

“Faith that grows proud ceases to be faith. It begins to be a god. . . Satan has a way to counterfeit every genuine attempt to obey God” – Beth Moore

Pride can also grow in the soil of bitterness.  A majority of the pride I deal with comes from a place of brokenness. It comes from things in my past that were ‘unfair’. 20060424fallsprhorse From a deep need inside me to be heard and not disregarded; to have a voice.  As God is teaching me who I am in Him and giving me my voice, I can easily and unknowingly go too far.  I can so desperately want to be heard or chosen or accepted that envy and resentment will rear it’s ugly head.  And often, at the heart of envy and resentment is pride.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I started a musical worship night at our church.  We are both very passionate about worship and feel the spirit of God in music.  This is something that we had wanted to do for a long time.  As we started the planning process, my pride worked right along side us like an unwelcome 3rd wheel.  There was very much a battle within me. I had to pray daily and sometimes hourly that He would strip me of my pride.  Some days I surrendered it to Him and some days I didn’t.  It was a learning process, and still is.

“We need to make a practice of literally getting on the floor, facedown and prostrate before God on a regular basis. Every time you get a smug sense of self-righteousness, buckle your knees before God buckles them for you.” – Beth Moore

I am comforted in knowing that the apostle Paul, someone so loved and used by God, struggled with pride.  He was such a powerful spiritual warrior and gifted with the revelations of God. But often those with extreme giftedness and wisdom and authority have the greatest challenge of us all.  This man that was strong in Godly wisdom and faith probably dealt with pride on a daily basis. And, God dealt with Paul about his pride as well.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Corinthians 12:7-9

‘Pride is the enemy of ministry’ says author and speaker Beth Moore. And, we ALL have a ministry if we are Christ followers.  We aren’t letting God work fully in us when we are filled with pride.  Pride can destroy a ministry like a cancer.

Kudos to Mandisa who skipped the Grammys in 2014 in order to keep her pride in check. What vulnerability she showed. I admire those who know their weaknesses and limitations. What a great example that was for the rest of us.

“I have been struggling with being in the world, not of it lately. I have fallen prey to the alluring pull of flesh, pride, and selfish desires quite a bit recently.” – Mandisa

problem pensive girl at window profile sad black and whiteSo, what is my point in saying all of this?  I want to send out a wake up call.

Where is pride in your life?  Ask God to show you.

How much power are you giving yourself verses what you are giving God?

Are you fully surrendering to God?

Who is holding you accountable?  Let yourself be sharpened by other brothers and sisters in Christ.  Have an accountability partner.  Ask a friend to hold you accountable regarding to pride.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

It is so important that we, as Christians, do not stick our heads in sand about pride. We need to face this adversary head on. We need to recognize the enemy, if we are to defeat it.

Fighting pride is a never ending battle, for all of us. Never, never let your guard down about pride. We need to be constantly aware of its presence and influence in our life. Overcoming pride should be a daily prayer for all of us, and I doubt that I will ever fully overcome it.


Loving Him more

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.   Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27

The #1 thing that we are supposed to do as Christians is to Love the Lord our God.  We are to love him above all else.  If you are like me and have been a Christian for a long time, then you know this verse well.  You’ve heard it a thousand times.  Most of us don’t give it a second thought.  Loving God seems so elementary.  Of course I love God.  But am I loving God?  I mean, are we loving Him actively, daily, and consciously?

Our focus is so easily swayed to the ‘to do’ list of Christianity.  Did I pray today? . . . . check; did I read my bible today? . . . . . check; did I do for others today? . . . . check.  Sound familiar?  We have neatly fit God into our daily planners.  God doesn’t want to be something that we just check off of our lists.  He wants to be known, pursued, experienced and adored with the intensity and desperation of a David or a Job.  He wants to be loved in the fullest expression.

The English language has 1 word for love, while the Greek language had 4; storge, philia, eros, and agape.  Storge means ‘affection’, and refers to the love a parent has for his or her child.  Philia is the word for ‘mental love’ which means friendship or the loyalty to friends and family.  Eros means physical or passionate love.  And the deepest, and richest love is agape which refers to love in the spiritual sense.  Agape is a true and unconditional love; one that is selfless.  It gives and expects nothing in return.  This is the love our heavenly Father has for us.  The only love worthy of our God is agape love.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. . . . love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

This is another verse that we have heard a million times.  Even though he is mostly talking about our love for one another, it is still agape love.  When you really examine the description of how we are to love, we realize . . . it’s a tall order!  And, I know that I often fall miserably short.

Thanks to the fall of man, or maybe even before that, our sin nature causes us to love selfishly.  We look out for our own needs and desires.  Whatever makes us feel good and benefits us, we love.  Why do you think the divorce rate is so high?  Our sin nature makes agape love unnatural for us.  I would question if we are even capable of loving with an agape love at all without God’s help.

So, how can I ‘love’ a God who is above all powers, above all kings, above all nature and all created things?  What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart? . . . all your soul? . . . all your mind? . . . and all your strength?  How can I grasp loving the God of the universe?   . . . and love Him well?  I would say that we have to ask Him to teach us such a love as this.

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”   John 14:21

Love the Lord your God with all of your heart.  All of our heart needs to be devoted to Him, and Him alone.  There can be no idols.  We need to be constantly evaluating where our ‘treasure’ is.  Where do we spend our time and money?  What are the majority of our thoughts about?

“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God . . .”   Exodus 20:3-6

Love the Lord your God with all of your soul.  Don’t sell yourself out.  Your soul belongs to the Lord, and He loves it and protects it like no one ever could.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  Matthew 16:26 

Love the Lord your God with all of your mind.  Keep your mind sharp.  Use your mind to discover all that God has for you.  Use it to soak up scripture, not just read it.  Ponder the things of God.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you”   Isaiah 26:3

Love the Lord your God with all of your strength.  Keep your body strong and healthy.  It is His temple.  Use your body for the Lord.  Give Him the best of your ability.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.   1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Most churches focus primarily on the 2nd commandment, “love your neighbor as yourself”.  We focus on missionary work, evangelism, and outreach.  All of which are good things and commanded by God.  However, “love your neighbor as yourself” is not the most important commandment.  Loving Him is.

Focusing on the second commandment first leads to burn out. We cannot bypass the “loving Him” and be fruitful in ministry.  Satan knows that we are ‘doers’.  In biblical times doers were called Pharisees, today they are the ‘Superchristians’ that we so admire.  We all aspire to be the ‘Marthas’, not the ‘Marys’.  We busy ourselves as if building a resume for heaven.  How many ministries did I serve in?  how many people did I convert?  How many neighbors did I invite to church?  Anything that Satan can use to distract us from loving and trusting God, he will use . . . even service and ministry.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-42

The focus has to be not on the doing, but on the loving.  If we put first things first, then the second commandment will happen naturally.  The doing comes out of the loving.  Just as the fruits of the spirit come from spending time with God and studying His Word.  If we ask Him every day how to love Him more . . . and if our eyes are continually on Him, then how far can we stray?

My prayer is this . . . .

Lord, I want to love You more.   I want to love You with every breath I take, every step I make, every action I take.  I want to love You in every moment of my day.  I want to love You in quiet times spent at your feet.  I want to love You from the moment I wake up in the morning until sleep takes me at night.


Teens and suicide

A 14 year old boy who was a student at my daughter’s school took his own life this week. She believes that this boy was bullied at school for being gay.

My heart is heavy. We have lost one more child to the confusion and cruelty of adolescence. One precious son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson, friend, and fellow student to my daughter. He was lost before he had a chance to work it out and figure it out for himself like the rest of us do through a lifetime. I’m heartbroken. I can’t imagine what his family and friends are going through right now. I know that Jesus wept that day.

The sadness and sorrow of this terrible tragedy is beyond measure.  Unfortunately, stories like this are becoming more common.

So, it begs the question:  What do we as Christians, and the church, say when something like this happens?  What message do we send to the kids left behind?  What help and guidance do we offer kids who are trying to navigate the rough terrain of sexuality that is thrust in their face everyday?  This is so CRITICALLY IMPORTANT!  No longer can we afford to remain silent.  The church needs to take a stand on the issue of homosexuality in our public schools and give our kids a fighting chance.

Those who advocate for homosexuality/bisexuality are loud.  They have the media, TV shows, celebrities, the music industry and news organizations to spread their message.  Our kids are bombarded with theses liberal messages all day long.  What chance do they have to turn from this if the church is silent about this issue?  How can we say nothing?

We must fight for them.  We must do more.

We need to know what God wants us to say and do about this.  What do we say to teenagers who are exploring homosexuality?  What do we say to teens who know someone who claims to be gay?  We think, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’  It all starts with love.  We need to send a message of LOVE and HOPE.  Love to this precious boy and others like him.  Hope for the lost in this young generation.  We need to approach this subject with extreme tenderness and grace.  But, we must also equip teens in practitcal ways.

I am not equipped in any way to know the answers to most of these questions.  This is a really difficult subject.  But, I am sending out a plea to the leaders of our churches.  Let’s start the conversation.  Let’s start a movement to take back our schools and our teens.

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:21-24

When I was probably a sophomore in high school I had a friend from school and church who committed suicide.  He was dealing with sexual preference issues, and probably bullying as well.  I remember the call.  After the words penetrated my brain and I hung up the phone I went outside.  It was a beautiful spring day.  I sat down on the front steps.  I watched cars whizzing by and people mowing their lawn.  I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs ‘STOP’!  Yet, the world kept spinning, people went on with their lives right before my eyes.  I couldn’t believe it, because my world had stopped.  The earth was no longer spinning.  The day would not turn into night and the night would certainly not turn back into day.  Life would never be the same.

Christians and tipping; we need to do better

“Before departing the restaurant, a man left a small tip with a note that said ‘I tithe 10% to the Lord, why should I give you 18%?’  This was on a talk show tippingthis morning.  Another story is told about a customer that didn’t leave a tip, but left a pamphlet about their church instead.

I am always baffled by stories like this.  Do people really think that these kinds of arrogant actions are winning anyone over for Christ?!  Do you think that this waitor said to himself . . . hmmmm . . . maybe I’ll go check out this church after he had been stiffed?!  Not a chance.  I am pretty sure that the brochure ended up in a thousand pieces in the trashcan!  Strike one for the church.

These stories makes me cringe!  I can just picture Jesus at God’s right hand, shaking His head and saying . .  . no child . . . no, you’re not getting it.

This is not a new phenomenon; Christians have typically been lousy tippers.  It’s sad to say that I used to be a lousy tipper myself.  I tipped like so many people do – based on the quality of service from our waitor or waitress.  Was she friendly?  Did she get my order right?  Was my food warm and brought to me in a timely manner?  The scale goes up and down . . . 10% . . . 20% . . . no, maybe 15%.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do, you might say?  Well, in worldly terms that is the socially acceptable thing to do.  However, Christians are not to be ‘worldly’.  We are to be different; set apart.

There are 2 reasons why Christians should ALWAYS tip generously.

The first is grace.  Grace defined is mercy, compassion, or pardon.  If there is one topic that we as Christians should understand, it is grace.  The longer I walk with God, the more I realize exactly how much grace I have received, and how much grace I need.  And I have received it freely and undeservedly.  Without grace where would I be right now?  Oh, I don’t even want to go there.  The number of times He has had my back when I was being foolish and stupid is too much to count.  To say that He has given me grace in my life is such a gross understatement that I hesitate to even write it!  Tipping well regardless of the service we receive is extending grace to others.  How can we receive God’s grace and mercy and not pay it forward?

“Freely you have received; freely give.”  Matthew 10:8

The second reason is that we are to be witnesses for Christ.

“He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.”  John 1:7

What kind of witness am I if I give someone a lousy tip that sends the message that you weren’t good enough?  Who am I?!!  Who are we to put ourselves in a position of superiority?  Jesus washed His disciple’s feet!  We are to serve others, not be served.  We are all God’s children and have equal value in His eyes.

To waitors and waitresses everywhere:  I am sorry for the pride and arrogance that we, as Christians often afford ourselves.  We need to do better!

My Creed

I believe in God the Father – maker of heaven and earth crucifixion-of-jesus-247x300
And in Jesus Christ His only Son 
I believe in the virgin birth 
I believe in the Man of Sorrows bruised for iniquities 
I believe in the Lamb who was crucified and hung between two thieves

I believe in the resurrection on the third and glorious day 
And I believe in the empty tomb and the stone that the angel rolled away 
He descended and set the captives free 
And now He sits at God’s right hand and prepares a place for me

I believe He sent His Spirit to comfort and to reveal 
To lead us into the truth and light, to baptize and to seal 
I believe that He will come back the way He went away 
And receive us all unto Himself, but no man knows the day

Creed, Petra, words and music by Bob Hartman, based on the Apostle’s Creed

I am nothing special.  Yet, Christ died for me . . . it blows my mind still, even after 30ish years in the faith!  The above words represent who I am, and this is MY creed.  I love the Lord my God with everything I am and I strive to know Him more and love Him better.

I have always had somewhat of a rebellious spirit.  And I am OK with that since no one in history has ever been more of a rebel than Jesus Christ.  In churches and in Christian circles I am rarely politically correct, not at all conventional, and tamed . . . never!  The children of God are powerful people.  We cannot be contained and we will not be silent!  God has given us much to say and do.

I frequently ponder the things of God and I question everything.  I created this blog to share with my Christian brothers and sisters my crazy thoughts and ideas about our great faith . . . . AND . . . . to hear yours.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8