“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
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)
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.
Well, today is the last day of our “Clearing the Stage” blog posts. Jimmy’s record releases tomorrow and we are so thrilled! And what a better way to usher in a new record than by Jimmy and I actually seeking to live out the message of this record. I hope that you have been challenged to do some stage-clearing and idol-crushing in your own life. I also hope you will get yourself a copy of Jimmy’s new record tomorrow, either on iTunes, jimmyneedham.com, or at your local Christian bookstore. I really believe that this record will minister to you, encourage you, challenge you, and give you something fun to dance around the house to.
I have recently been studying through the Psalms and noticed the recurring phrase of “wait on the Lord.” There are many promises for those who wait on the Lord and many psalmists who promise to be people who wait on Him. I’ve written about waiting before (see my blog, “What are you waiting on?”), and am always amazed at how little I wait on God. I usually find that I am waiting on many other circumstances in my life: waiting to graduate from college, waiting to be able to have a healthy baby, waiting to get to a more “financial stable” place, waiting for Jimmy to get home, waiting, waiting, waiting. It seems that I’m rarely content in my current circumstances.
I hope you have all had the opportunity to read Jimmy’s “Clearing the Stage” blogs this week on his facebook page. They have been phenomenal and full of truth and wisdom. He has mentioned a quote from Tim Keller defining idolatry as “turning good things into ultimate things.” I love this definition because it reminds us that it isn’t always something inherently evil that takes God’s place; often times it is something good.
I began praying this morning that God would reveal more things that push Him out center stage in my life. As I wrote down things that came to mind, none of them were bad things: my desire to be a good wife and mom, my desire for a clean and orderly house, to be a good friend, just to name a few. All of these things are good and righteous desires, but often they are the very things that keep me from God. When my desire to be a good wife, mom, friend, or homemaker compete with my desire to know God more, it’s my time with God that usually gets cut. I justify this by telling myself, “I can spend time with God any time I want to, but right now I need to (fill in the blank).” I am have become so quick to cut out my Jesus time because “I can fit Him in anywhere.” But usually, the end of those days come sooner than I realize, and I find I haven’t thought twice about my God.
Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the Word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken
-Lyrics from “Clear the Stage”
Oh how I love the lyrics to this song. And yet the dangerous thing is that while the Spirit inside me testifies to how good it is to sit and wait on God, this rarely turns into action. I am often so bent on being productive (as I wrote about in yesterday’s post), that I forget what it means to sit still and wait on God to speak. I tend to fill every second of my day with something in hopes to make the most of my time. But if I were to look at my time with spiritual eyes, the reality would be that I am filling my day with so much noise that there is very little room for God to speak.
I am a hopeless “Martha.” If you are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, you will remember that Martha was the sister who was constantly serving and all the while forsaking the most important thing: simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. This is the story of my life. I love to accomplish things. I love to do. It makes me feel good about myself and gives me a way to quantify the successfulness of my day. Consequently, it is extremely hard for me to just sit. In fact, this is the main reason that I hate napping. What a wasted few hours! When I end the day without having accomplished anything on my to-do list, I feel like I wasted my day.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with getting things done and having a strong work ethic. It is when I can’t stop doing those things or thinking about them that they become a problem. Since our daughter Lively still takes a morning nap, that has become my “Jesus time.” I spend that time enjoying who God is through the Bible and prayer for as long as her nap lasts. But heaven forbid that she sleep longer than her normal hour and a half. I can’t lose that precious time to get to the important things I want to accomplish!
So if you weren’t aware, my awesome husband Jimmy is releasing a new record called “Clear The Stage” in 5 days! This record is unbelievable musically and lyrically and is all I have been listening to lately. The album title comes from a song on the record also called Clear the Stage that was written by a friend of ours, Ross King (Check out his music here. And please buy his album “And All the Decorations Too.” It is phenomenal lyrically.). This song has had a powerful effect on both of our lives and is one we regularly listen to as a way to check our hearts for idols. To give you an idea of the message of the song and this record, let me share a portion of the lyrics:
Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.
We must not worship something that’s not even worth it.
Clear the stage and make some space for the one who deserves it.
In anticipation of this record, Jimmy and I will be doing some “stage-clearing” in our own lives and will be blogging about it for the next five days until the record releases. We invite you to join us in this with hopes that we can give God the rightful place in our lives: center stage.