Pride, Death, and A Great Redeemer

“Stop trying to do something for Me. Just let Me be your Redeemer.”

This is the message I sense God is continually speaking to me lately.  Oh what a hard lesson for me to learn. There is something in me that desperately wants to do something amazing for God, to live a life that makes Him proud and impresses Him and others.  If I’m being gut-level honest, I just want to be awesome on my own and have some bit of glory for myself.  I don’t really like to live in the reality that apart from Christ I can do nothing. And because my Father loves me, He has set up circumstances in my life to sanctify this sinful tendency out of me.

Last year, I studied the Pharisees and realized that I am just like them.  The pride in my heart mirrors theirs, these people whom Jesus so regularly condemns.  This awareness birthed profound brokenness in me and a desire to live the life of a servant, which Jesus says makes a person truly great in His Kingdom.  With true love for God in my heart, I have since then been regularly asking for dependency on Him and humility and grace to have a servant’s heart.  Then our pastor’s wife asked if I would speak at our Women’s Christmas dinner.

Ummmm… no. Of course not! Hello! I just learned how bent toward pride and arrogance I am, the last place in the world I need to be is on a stage.  So imagine my surprise when Jimmy told me I should do it. Not only that, he said all my reasons to say no were based in fear and self-protection.  He pointed out that I was trusting circumstances to save me from my sin of pride, not Jesus.  Ouch.  After much wrestling, I came to the same conclusion: none of my reasons to say no were God-glorifying.  I had to say yes.

The irony of all this is that had I been asked to do this a few years prior, I would have jumped at the opportunity and subconsciously thought “It’s about time!”  But here I am, painfully aware of my pride having to face a stage, the surest snare of pride there is.  Never have I felt more in need of God to save me from my sin than preparing for that event.  Prayer for dependency. Answered.

Within a month of our Christmas dinner, I got 2 other opportunities to regularly write which were quickly confirmed by my husband and a few others as something I should say yes to.  But Lord, these are the things that bring out my pride!  Shouldn’t I get rid of all this? This is where God’s sweet message meets me exactly where I’m at:

Stop trying to do something for Me.  Let Me redeem you.

The natural thought process for me in all these new writing ventures is that I am mainly doing this for the benefit of others or to please God.  And maybe that’s not a totally bad reason.  But something I am convinced of is that this season of writing is mainly for my sanctification.  My redemption.  For God to put to death things in me that enslave me.  He is causing a perfect storm of circumstances to showcase my self-sufficient, proud, and self-glorifying tendencies.  Why?  So that He can redeem me.  Because I have A Great Redeemer who loves me enough not to leave me in my sin!

It is amazing, since starting to post things, I feel an immediate and sudden urge to find validation in all of this.  I hate the stats page on these blog sites.  Of course I want to know how many people viewed my blog!  Of course I want to know what people are saying about me.  I love me!  Not only that, I find that I really want to impress others with how great of a writer I am.  Yep, let’s just get it out in the open and into the light: I want to impress you!  And yet, I am supposed to do all things unto the glory of God?!  Oh Jesus, please redeem me.

Oh how this brokenness has lead me to the cross.  I have never been more grieved by my sin, more wowed by Christ’s perfect life, more wrecked by His brutal death because of my sin.  The cross of Christ is so much more precious to me than ever before.  For the first time ever, I am starting “to sing joyfully of His righteousness” (ps 51:14) and not my own, because I realize any goodness in me is of Him anyway.  Though painful to be this aware of my sin, I deeply desire for God to continue redeeming me.

Colossians 3:5 says “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature.”  Those are strong words.  Jesus also used strong language to describe how we should fight our sin: “If your right hand causes you to sin cut it off.” (Matt 5:30)  Knowing that this season of writing is mainly about my sanctification and redemption, I want to yield to God’s work in me as much as possible.  So, I will be doing more “off-the-cuff” writing like this post.  My tendency is to present clean, polished, and excellent posts to impress others.  There is nothing wrong with excellence, and in some of the other avenues of writing I currently have, I think excellence there is necessary and honors God.  But since this blog is a place I have more freedom to write however I want, I feel like it would be a great exercise for me to post more often without overanalyzing and polishing off all my posts.  Because, let’s be honest, the reason I do that is often for my own glory.

So, just a heads up, you’ll probably see more posts on here, but they will probably have more run-on sentences, more spelling errors, and won’t be as organized.  But through this exercise, I am praying God will redeem some of the sinfulness I see in my own heart.  Praying for dependency and brokenness seemed like a pleasant thing at the time, but it sure does feel like death right now.  Oh yeah, that’s because it is a form of death!  But “if a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)  May God fully crucify the old me that trusts in my own abilities and loves my own glory and make room for Christ to live in and through me and bear much fruit.

Social Media Overhaul

Social Media Overhaul - KellyNeedham.comIn my last post, I discussed some harmful effects of unrestrained and purposeless social media use.  These were all things I saw in myself while taking a 6 month break from it.  Since reintroducing these noticeably addictive apps back onto my phone, I was disheartened to see that I began to struggle with all the same things.  In a matter of days I began to default to looking through Instagram multiple times a day, even when there was nothing new there.  Like a moth to the flame, I was drawn back again.

Seeing this brought an awareness for something I had not had in regards to social media before: purpose.  I had no meaningful why to social media, which fueled the mindless, habitual scrolling.  But as a Jesus-follower, I am never permitted to be mindless in any area of my life.  I am to “run in such a way that I may win, exercising self-control in all things.” (1 Corin 9:24-25)  In all things. This includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

While many may recognize the need for limits on social media, few will effectively set or keep them without establishing a purpose.  Without purpose, all limits on social media will feel arbitrary and often be disregarded. Purpose determines where the boundaries go and why they are there.  Not only does this remind you why you limit yourself, but also gives you a larger reason to resist the urge to break those boundaries in the moment you are tempted.

So after my 6 month break, I began to do a complete overhaul of my approach to social media.  Let me share 3 major areas of change, that by God’s grace, I have been striving to implement.

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Twitter-itis: Is Social Media Making Us Sick?

Twitteritis-Is Social Media Making Us SickCould you live without Social Media?  How many hours a day do you spend looking at news feeds and pictures?  What is the result of a life of constant entertainment, connectivity, and distraction?  What is the condition of the soul dulled with a steady input of mindless screen-watching?

I began to ask these questions after noticing some undesirable patterns in my use of social media last year. My days were bookended with checking news feeds; my phone was the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing at night. The urge to keep scrolling and scrolling echoed the feeling of trying to pull myself away from a bag of chips yet hopelessly saying, “Just one more” til the bag is gone. I remember thinking, “This is not how I want to live. Only halfway living my life while spending the other half passively connected to an online world.”

Out of desperation to regain balance and soul health, I spent nearly 6 months of last year completely free of all social media. No instagram.  No twitter.  No facebook. And very limited Pinterest use. YES, I did survive! Not only that, I began to see 6 harmful effects of unrestrained and aimless social media use. Continue reading

A God Worth Waiting For

A God Worth Waiting For.jpg

It’s Monday morning and you walk out the door at 6:30am to head across town for an important meeting you have at 7:00am. All is going as expected until you turn the corner to see you left the headlights on all night. Your fears are confirmed as you turn the key in the ignition to no avail.

Two choices emerge in your mind. There is a city bus stop 1/2 mile from your apartment that can get you there. You’d probably be late, but it’s definitely a possibility. Then there is your friend who lives about 5 minutes away but is known for her ability to turn every 5 minute task into half an hour. You call in the favor and she says she just needs to get dressed and will be there shortly.

By now it’s 6:40am. Do you begin the half mile treck to the bus stop or wait for your friend who continues to claim that she will be there soon? Whether on your driveway or at the bus stop, your choice will reveal what you deem as most reliable to fulfill your need of getting to your meeting. We wait on what we believe to be reliable.

There’s a reason no one is standing in line at an empty register at Walmart, hoping for a cashier to magically appear. There’s a reason no one is sitting at a Chick-fil-a drive thru on Sunday afternoon waiting to place their order. No one is coming. Waiting is pointless. We only wait on what we believe to be reliable.

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1 Way to Do Everything

1 way to do everything.jpgI was just looking for a recipe.  That’s all.  A small request to ask of Pinterest, really.  But a simple quest for a good enchilada recipe evolved into researching how to be better at life. Two hours and much discouragement later, I’m wondering what happened.

If you’ve been on Pinterest lately, you may know what I’m talking about.  The abundance of articles out there on self-improvement is growing rapidly.

“10 Ways to Have a Christ-Centered Marriage”
“5 Things You Should Never Tell Your Child”
“15 Ways to a More Peaceful Home”
“30 Questions to Ask Before You Date Him”
“25 Ways to Declutter Your Life”
“12 Filthiest Places You Should be Cleaning”

I can’t help but be drawn in like a moth to the flame by claims such as these.  I am bent toward self-reliance.  Nothing is more attractive to me than feeling like I have the power to change my life and the promise of 7 easy steps entices me to click through and keep reading .  I like feeling in control, like I have the power to change myself.  Simultaneously, the thought of not reading makes me wonder, “How will I know if I’ve said any of the 5 things I should never tell my kids?” Self-sufficiency and fear dually coerce me to trust in myself and strive for a better marriage, kids, house, and life.

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Four Ways to Wage War On Pride

Every one of us is susceptible to falling into pride.  But it is the Pharisee’s religious pride that is the most dangerous because it  doesn’t appear prideful on the outside, instead it has the external appearance of holiness.  As Andrew Murray said: “There is no pride so dangerous, because none so subtle and insidious, as the pride of holiness. [There can grow], all unconsciously, a hidden habit of soul, which feels complacency its attainments, and cannot help seeing how far it is in advance of others.”

andrew murray

As I wrote in my last post, Four Marks of a Pharisee, I believe the first and most important response we can have when fighting this type of pride (or any sin) is one of brokenness and repentance.  It is a lowly and contrite spirit that God loves and we need Him walking along side us to see any victory in this area.

With that in mind, I want to share four practical ways I regularly choose to fight this religious pride in my own heart.

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Four Marks of A Pharisee

The chief priests and the elders came to Jesus. … And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.”  Matthew 21:23-32

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Last week I shared about my personal realization that I was a Closet Pharisee.  Though I had a true love for Jesus, my pursuit of holiness took a slight wrong turn and a hidden and insidious pride began to grow in my heart.  If you grew up in church like me, you must be careful to discern your heart in this matter.  You may know certain truths in your head that your heart does not yet believe.  I knew that “all had sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  I knew that “the wages of sin is death.”  I could tell you that I deserved hell for my sins and that I was saved “by grace alone through faith and that not of myself or works so that no one may boast.”  Yet, in my heart and my actions, I believed I was good enough on my own apart from Jesus.  As you read this, I invite you to check your heart and motives.  Just because you have a genuine love for God and aren’t aware of any sin in your heart, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

The Danger of Self-righteousness

The Pharisees were the religious leaders in Jesus’s day.  They were very moral and religious people who were often in the temple, studying the Law and making sacrifices.  And ironically, they receive the harshest words of judgment from Jesus during his time on earth.  Why is this?  Because they looked to their own good works and good deeds to save them.  Therefore, they didn’t have the ability to relate to Jesus as a savior, because they were looking to themselves for that.  They were self-righteous, looking for righteousness within themselves.  Comparatively, this is why the prostitutes and tax collectors, who knew they had no righteousness and no hope of salvation in themselves, were able to receive Jesus as savior.  As our pastor said earlier this month, “The Pharisees good behavior is more dangerous and more damning than the sin of tax collectors and prostitutes.”

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Closet Pharisee

“Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” ~Jesus, Matthew 23: 32-33

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You’d think these words were said to a murderer, or a sexually perverted or promiscuous person, or a thief.  But no, Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the day.

Wait, did you catch that… Jesus’s harshest words of judgment are to the religious leaders of the day.  This should cause the ears of this religious church girl to perk up and listen.  Why such harsh words?  And what did these religious people do to merit such severe judgment?  And how do I make sure I am truly following Jesus and not the path of these anti-Jesus religious people?  These are questions I should have asked in my early years of following Jesus.

Even though I fell in love with Jesus early in my life, there grew an inward bent of my soul, slowly and stealthily, that was hardly noticeable.  I’m not sure exactly how it started.  Maybe it was the subconscious joy I found in the acclaim of people in being such a “good Christian.”  Maybe I couldn’t help but notice how much “better” I was than my peers.  Somewhere along the way, I began to delight in my good works more than the work of Jesus.  My heart started to reflect that of a Pharisee more than Jesus.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

No matter how it started, a root of pride began to grow in my heart and for years it was watered with the praise of others and my own comparison to my peers.  I became really good at “being a Christian.” In the morning, I trusted my ability to have a good quiet time and memorize scripture.  In the evening, I found peace in my “maturity” to worship with hands raised.  I no longer needed Jesus as my savior.  My good deeds had become my functional savior.  I knew the right words to say, the right things to do to look like the best Jesus-follower out there.

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Servanthood: the Path to Greatness

IMG_7099Almost 7 months ago, we welcomed our 2nd daughter, Sophia, into the world! And with the joy of her arrival, God ushered in a new season of my life: one of servanthood.

I cannot tell you the joy and the honor it is for me to spend my day taking care of children. (Those of you who know my story can understand the depth of appreciation I have for the gift of motherhood.) But the arrival of a second baby resulted in a loss of my free time, my rest, and my energy. Amidst the joy of finally holding this sweet new baby I was often frustrated that I was not able to do the things I wanted to do.

At the time, I had been reading through Matthew and a couple of passages caught my attention:

“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled ; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

“Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28

What a backwards thing to say! The first shall be your slave, the greatest shall be your servant. This goes against the grain of every natural inclination in me. It is my default to see how I can climb the ladder of greatness, whether in the realm of motherhood, the world of blogging, or within my own circles of friends. I often find myself trying to become “greater” without even realizing it. It is just the subtle current of my sin-inflicted heart to drift toward self-exaltation and self-promotion.

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The Myth of “The One”

“I think he might be the one!”

Aren’t we all waiting to get to that moment in a relationship? There is this concept that has been propagated through an abundance of romantic comedies as well as our American Christian culture that we all have one perfect soul mate out there somewhere. But I want to propose that this idea of “the one” is a myth and is an idea that is actually bringing more harm than good to those who embrace it.

First, let’s talk about what I mean when I say “The One.” There is a right way and a wrong way to view this. As Christians, we know that Psalm 139 says “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Because God is aware of what will happen throughout the course of our life, he obviously knows who we will marry if we get married. This is 100% Biblical and a correct way to think. If this is how you see “the one,” then this article is not for you. But there is another, more common way that “the one” is viewed that is not Biblical. It defines the one as the singular other human on the planet who can complete you, satisfy all your longings, and the only one with whom you can have a successful marriage. We see this concept in movies like Jerry Maguire (the famous “You complete me” line), and Twilight (“You’re my only reason to stay alive.”). This concept of “the one” is what I am dealing with in this article. The idea of hoping in one person to complete and satisfy you might not seem that bad on the surface, but underneath it results in numerous problems in marriage and singleness.

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