3 Things We Told Our Teenager When She Got Her Driver’s License

My daughter recently got her driver’s license. For me, this milestone in parenting has been about as much fun as potty training. It’s been nerve racking, stressful, and sometimes has caused contention between my daughter and I.

My husband once told me about a boss he had who gave his kids a brand new car at sixteen and said “here, go do your stuff.” In other words he was tired of driving them everywhere.

I’m sure he wasn’t quite so callous when he said it. And, I get it—driving our kids around is exhausting. I have two teenagers who always want to go somewhere. The requests are endless. And it feels like you live in your car.

So it is tempting to let your kids get their driver’s license without giving it much thought. That is what we did with our oldest daughter.

However, I realized something. As parents, we do not owe our kids a driver’s license simply because they turn sixteen. As far as teenagers go, driving is a privilege, not a right. And many factors play into the decision of whether kids should get a driver’s license or not.

As long as teenagers live in their parents’ home, driving is a privilege, not a right.

Looking back, I wish I would have slowed things down a bit and thought things through. I wish I would have thought about what I could leverage for the privilege of driving our car. Car keys are a great leveraging tool. And, oh, the lessons that come with car keys!

Here are three things we told our daughter when she got her driver’s license.

1. If you want the privilege of driving our car, you are expected to go to church and youth group.

When our kids are practically adults (16 or 17), it is often no longer productive to force them to go to church. Teenagers often become resentful if they are forced to go. And, at this age, they must start taking ownership of their faith.

Telling them that driving the car and going to church go hand in hand might alleviate stress on Sunday mornings. If they choose not to go to church, than they choose not to drive the car that week. But the main point is, it’s their choice.

Teenagers feel more empowered if they are given choices. If they can choose whether they go to church or not, it is more likely to be a positive, not a negative.

2. If you drive to school with a car we have provided, you will drive your siblings as well.

It seems like my oldest daughter wants everything to be perfectly “fair” between her and her sister. And it isn’t “fair” that her younger sister doesn’t have to ride the bus as a freshmen like she did. Therefore, she didn’t want to give her a ride.

What a perfect time to dispel the “everything has to be fair” myth. Life isn’t fair. The earlier our kids learn that, the better off they will be. Maturity is accepting life as it is, which is less than ideal.

As long as we have provided a car to drive to school, she is not going to leave the house without her sister. Especially since they go to the same school.

3. You will obey ALL of the laws regardless of how stupid you think they are.

When my daughter got her driver’s license, we learned that there are a lot of probationary restrictions right off the bat. In Indiana, teenagers can’t drive with anyone other than their family members for the first six months. They also have curfew. And they aren’t allowed to use a device, such as a phone, in the car.

My daughter complained about these rules saying, “that’s dumb,” or “nobody else cares about that rule.” With this attitude came a lot of teaching moments.

In this country, we don’t get to pick and choose which laws we follow. We are expected to follow all of them or face the the consequences. If my daughter is pulled over, a cop will never say, “Oh, you think that law is dumb, OK, then you can go.” Or, “Oh, you’re right, no one else pays attention to that law, never mind then.” Cops don’t care if you like or agree with any law, they only care if you break it.

Parents often make the mistake of assuming that once their kids are sixteen, they have the right to drive a car. Driving, for teenagers, is a privilege. Parents can leverage it, and use it in positive ways to reinforce mature behavior.

Labeled a pessimist

The Mountaintop

Joy and happiness.  We all like it. We all want it. Emotional highs, instant gratification, comfort and peace, fuzzy things, the smell of spring, sex, and love are things that make us happy. And, we like to be happy don’t we?  Even Peter, who so enjoyed the experience of Christ’s transfiguration, didn’t want it to end.

After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured13_jesus-tranfiguration before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  Matthew 17:1-4

Can you imagine this scene? Jesus leading Peter, James and John up a mountain and showing them His glory. Moses and Elijah suddenly appear before them. Can you image standing face to face with Moses, Elijah and the Son of God as they have a little powwow?! What a remarkable story!

Peter wanted to pitch his tent on that glorious mountain and stay there. Can you blame him? We all have memories of a time where our hearts were lit up and our minds were at peace.  Times when things were going swimmingly and love was in the air. Maybe even choirs of angels were singing.  Color was more colorful, and air in your lungs was the perfume of heaven.  Life was good.

Unfortunately, God does not allow us to stay on the ‘mountaintop’. Eventually, we must all come down.

 

The Valley

It has been my experience that most of life happens in the valley, not on the mountaintop. The cold, hard realities of life play out in the shadows of the great mountains. There, life happens; monotony in the everyday, and pain and deep sorrow.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  Psalm 23:4

Pain is every bit as real as joy.

When hard times hit in my life, I sometimes get the feeling that people view me as being a pessimist. So, I thought that I should explore to see if I am. I try not to be overly negative, but I call it like I see it.

What is pessimism? According to the World English Dictionary, these are the definitions:

1. the tendency to expect the worst and see the worst in all things

2. the doctrine of the ultimate triumph of evil over good

3. the doctrine that this world is corrupt and that man’s sojourn in it is a preparation for some other existence

 

Definition #1, the tendency to expect the worst and see the worst in all things

Do I expect the worst? A lot of times the answer is yes. How many times in the bible does God warn us of trouble in this life? . . . many times. How many times in the bible does God tell us that life will be smooth sailing? . . . zero. Does God tell us that the world is a magical, wonderful place? . . . not so much. My point is that trouble is something that we should expect because God told us to expect it.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  John 16:33

On the other hand, we can only expect the worst from the world, not from God. God only gives the best. . . . count on it!

“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.”  Jeremiah 29:11

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.  1 John 2:16

It is so easy to expect the worst from everything including God. We tend to project our negative experiences on God as well as the world. Our negative experiences in our life are a result of the enemy, not of God. We must separate the two. The world disappoints . . . God never fails.

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Joshua 1:5

Do I see the worst in all things? Absolutely not. I see the good in people and in the world and it moves me.  I also see evil in people and things in the world and that moves me as well.  It moves me to sorrow; Godly sorrow. Godly sorrow is a result of God opening our eyes not only to the beauty of who His is, but the reality of our world.

 

Definition #2, the doctrine of the ultimate triumph of evil over good

Do I believe in the doctrine of evil triumphing over good?  Not even a little. We already have victory in Jesus. Nothing that we do or that happens can change that.  HALLELUJAH!

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.                     1 Corinthians 15:57

The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.   Proverbs 21:31

 

Definition #3, the doctrine that this world is corrupt and that man’s sojourn in it is a preparation for some other existence

Do I believe in this doctrine? I absolutely do! This statement hits the nail on the head! This life is full of corruption.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people”.”   2 Timothy 3:1-17

However, thankfully, the world is just a stepping stone. This is not our home.

“For our citizenship is in heaven” Philippians 3:20

So, am I a pessimist? Well, in those terms, I guess partly I am. But, are the previous attitudes wrong? That is the question.

 

Godly sorrow; we will suffer as Christ did

From childhood we are taught to deny pain. Let the past be the past, and move on. “Don’t cry, and don’t be sad,” we are told. We learn to take our hurt and woundedness and stick it down in the deepest, darkest parts of our being where it will never be seen or heard from again. Emotional wounds are viewed as shameful and must be hidden. . . . . and, why aren’t they healed already . . . geeez?! Get over it!

Just get over it. Great advice, right?!

When does it ever work to ‘just get over’ or ‘stuff’ our feelings? It doesn’t. It always finds a way to unstuff itself. Emotional wounds are like the lava from a volcano. It either oozes out over time leaving a path of destruction, or, it just blows. Either way, it is extremely destructive.

If we are followers of Christ, we will suffer as He did. And, living in this world will likely leave us wounded. It is better to accept that we will suffer and experience pain and face it head on.

“Sometimes we want to experience the glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him. We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.”  

– Saeed Abedini – an American pastor who is currently imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith

 

Attitudes

What attitude toward the world is accurate and true? How do we know the right attitude to have?  We must examine the attitude Jesus had. Let’s look in Matthew at the sermon on the mount.

The beatitudes fascinate me. They are so counterculture, and they are absolutely beautiful.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Matthew 5:3-11

I love these verses almost more than any others in scripture. They are music to my ears.

God allows us to feel our hurt and pain, and be in a place of sorrow without shame. He acknowledges our pain and suffering. Not only that but . . .

HE BLESSES US IN THAT PLACE!

Wow! He didn’t say, “come on, you ‘poor in spirit’, put on a happy face”; or, “be optimistic, look at the bright side,” or “chin up!” He never commands us to “snap out of it”. Jesus never asks us to be anything but real – PRAISE GOD!

Pain, persecution and suffering are real things in this life. To deny that is to deny reality. Allowing us to feel and experience sorrow is part of His healing. And in sorrow, He becomes more real to us than ever before.  What a gift that is!

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Let’s remember that Christ came to turn things upside down. Or right side up?! He did not conform to the ways of the world.  He preached that the ‘least of these’ will be blessed. This is not quite the way of the world where only the happy, healthy, optimistic people seem to be acceptable.

What were Jesus’s beliefs about the world based on the sermon on the mount? I would surmise that he saw the world as cruel (Matt 5:11), bland (5:13), dark (5:14), hostile (5:44), full of hypocrites (6:5,16), destructive & unsafe (6:19), difficult (7:13,14), and dangerous (7:15).

So, what was Jesus’s view toward the world?  I think that this verse says it all:

“You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?” Jesus replied  Mathew 17:17

From these verses it would seem that Jesus’s attitude about the world was negative. But, these attributes were and are very real in our world then and now. Yet, He loved that same world so much, that he died to save it.  That’s amazing!

 

The world is something to be overcome

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”    1 John 5:4

In His Word, God tells us that He has overcome the world. If God tells us that the world must be overcome, than we must assume certain things about the world.  Anything that needs to be overcome is generally bad.

“In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

My point is that the world isn’t a great, wonderful and magical place. It isn’t Oz! It’s more like Kansas, or maybe the tornado in a Wizard of Oz scenario!

Reality check –> The world is a place often full of darkness where more bad things happen than good.

 

Dead faith

Living a life free of sorrow is not likely, according to God’s Word.

If we are getting through our life without suffering of any kind, than we must do a check on ourselves. How much of our life are we living for God? Are we giving Him everything? Are we surrendering all or being safe?

In this country we strive to ‘have it all’, or achieve the ‘American Dream’.  God has so much more planned for our life than the “American Dream”.  He has a plan that may involve rejection, discomfort, suffering, and loneliness.  But never forget, His plan also includes purpose, meaning and unimaginable love and peace. He wants us to experience His joy that is far beyond anything that we can comprehend.

If we are always chasing after happiness and optimism, than we are missing the point of this life. God puts us on this earth for a short while and asks us to do 2 simple things. 1) to love Him, and 2) to gather our brothers and sisters and bring them to Him. That’s it.

 

“let us resurrect our dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish ‘resurrected’ self and experiencing the cross of Jesus, then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.”   – Saeed Abedini

 

 

4 Reasons why kids need to hear No

Saying No to our kids, almost more than anything, will grow them into mature adults. Always saying Yes to our kids breeds entitlement, and entitled kids become entitled adults.

There are four reasons why saying No to our kids is so important.


 1.  God, the Father says No to us

God does and has always said No to His children. In His perfect and gentle way, He sometimes denies us what we ask for. Why? Because what we ask for is not the very best for us, or it is not His will.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  James 4:3

King David’s deepest desire was denied him by God.

“I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.”  1 Chronicles 28:2-3

God said No to Paul.

“Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Moses asked God to send someone else to lead His people out of Egypt, and we all know the answer he received!

“I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”   Exodus 4:10-12

Asking for wrong things with wrong motives is what children do. And often, that’s what we do when we pray. Or, sometimes we ask for something good and not of wrong motives, and God denies us this as well. In times like these we must remind ourselves that, as the saying goes, ‘Father knows best.’

2.  Saying No to our kids grows character

Not only should we say No to our children, but I would say that it is our job to do so. Our job as parents is to create character in our kids. We want them to have characteristics as adults that will help them succeed in life and that are pleasing to God.

We want them to be a hard worker and be successful in their life’s work. We want them to be able to provide for themselves and their family. We want them to possess love and selflessness and be in a satisfying long-term relationship. And, most of all, we want them to grow up to be mature, Godly adults.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

My childhood had a lot of No’s in it. I grew up in the second richest county in the country. However, while most of the kids around me got everything they wanted, I didn’t. How do I feel about that now looking back? I am grateful. I am a very thankful person and I believe in hard work and sacrifice.

What characteristics could hearing No develop in our children?

Self-control  When we say No to our kids, we are modeling self-control. We are teaching them that sometimes it is beneficial to withhold, and even to say no to ourselves at times.

Self-control is not a popular concept these days. Instant gratification is much more accepted and encouraged; just watch any TV show or commercial. We’re Americans, we shouldn’t have to wait for anything, right? 

One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  We must help our kids gain this character trait despite the world around us. We, as Christians, strive to be like Christ, not like the world.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”   Romans 12:2

Patience  Just as practice makes perfect; waiting makes patience.  If kids have to wait for things in life, then the fruit of patience will grow in them. Sometimes they must wait for months or years, and sometimes they must wait until they are an adult.  Waiting produces perseverance and patience, and an attitude of appreciation.

Love  Being told No, and experiencing disappointment teaches kids that it’s not all about them. It gives them the ability to love.  When kids are constantly catered to, they learn that the world revolves around them. First of all, it doesn’t. Secondly, if we teach our children that they are not the center of the universe, they are more likely to focus on loving others instead of just themselves.

3.  Saying No to our kids gives them coping skills

Most kids today don’t have any coping skills. This is evidenced in the high number of school shootings in the past 10 years. The most effective way to teach coping skills is to allow our kids to have to cope with something. They must experience rejection, disappointment or a No, in order to learn how to cope with it.

When trials hit in our lives, life does go on whether we want it to or not. Adults, hopefully, have learned the skill of putting their feelings aside in order to function when needed. This skill can only be learned through practice. And, the younger a person learns it, the better off they will be.

How do I sit in the pain and let it wash over me, yet, not let it destroy me?
What do I do when the pain is so deep?
How do I go on?  How do I get up the next morning and survive another day?

These questions reflect a severity that hopefully our children won’t have to experience in their childhood.  The spectrum of the intensity of pain or discomfort will obviously vary.  However, some situations could prompt these questions; dealing with divorced parents;  ending a romantic relationship; dealing with loneliness; or being bullied at school. These are all examples of the sufferings of childhood.  Having had practice in coping skills will help young people to deal with these very difficult challenges.

Pain and tragedy is very real in our world. Few people escape it. What we all strive for is the ability to get up and dust ourselves off and get back in the game. We want to equip our children to handle ANYTHING that may come their way and persevere.  The only way to do that is to let them hear no.

“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering and you find that you have excluded life itself.”   – C.S. Lewis

4.  Saying No to our kids teaches them to depend on God

About 2 years ago my oldest daughter, Emily, wanted a dog.  We already had a dog and 2 cats at the time. I already felt like I lived in a zoo! After much opposition, guilt, crying, begging & pleading, we ended up telling her no.

She was devastated.

It had been a really lonely year or two for her in the area of friendships. A girl down the street dumped her as a friend and we were homeschooling at the time. It was really tough for her. And, it was extremely hard for me to see her in so much pain and not jump in and save her from it.

A few months later at dinner, she talked about her loneliness.  She said that she had been spending time with God and in the Bible when she was lonely or sad.  Nothing could thrill me more than hearing those words from my child.  She was learning to go to her Heavenly Father, the ultimate source for comfort and love.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

When our children feel sad, alone, or disappointed it is our job to point them to God.  If we are always ‘saving’ them, then we are taking away an opportunity for them to know who their true savior is, Jesus Christ.

Depending on God is a hard thing to do.  We as adults struggle with surrender.  Instead of going to Him in times of despair we go to other things or other people.  We need to teach our kids to go to God when they experience pain or despair. If they develop this habit early on, when they are adults and something happens, they will know where to turn. The sooner that kids learn that our God is the God of all compassion and comfort, the better off they will be.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles”   1 Corinthians 1:3-6

Love must be first

I must conclude by acknowledging the importance of nurturing our kids with plenty of love, hugs and acceptance.  Saying No and denying our children without love and nurturing is wrong. Kids need lots of hugs and ‘I love you’ s’, and listening ears.  They need to hear and feel our love everyday.

God loves us everyday and in every way. His love for us is scattered all over the Bible. He is our ultimate example of fatherly love. God disciplines us, but his love for us is beyond measure.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”    1 Corinthians 13:13

Love is why we say No. We need to give our kids tools. Tools that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Love is tough sometimes, but as parents, we are called to sacrifice. In parenting, love and discipline go together. You can’t have one without the other.

The Story of Your Life: The Power of Sowing and Reaping

Learning the Way of Wisdom

The-Dominoes-Are-Falling

The law of sowing and reaping is as much a law of God’s universe as is gravity. The Bible uses this object lesson from the farm to illustrate a powerful truth: what you plant will grow exponentially when the harvest is ready.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Galatians 6:7-8

Picture it this way – one seed of corn can produce an ear of corn produces 800 kernels on average. Imagine the amount of kernels that result from an entire field filled with corn seed. Now, imagine how each one of your thoughts and actions can quickly affect your habits, your character, your lifestyle, and even your destiny as you plant your…

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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.

Amen.

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