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


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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Clearing the Stage: Waiting for What?

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,, 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.

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Clearing the Stage: A Means to an End

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.

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Clearing the Stage: Noise

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.

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Clearing the Stage: Accomplishments

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!

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Clearing the Stage: People

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.

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A Day in the Life…

Today was a perfect example of how being married to Jimmy makes my life weird.

We showed up at Panera bread this afternoon to meet with a pastor in our area for the very first time. We had just sat down when a stranger walked up and asked, “Excuse me, but are you Jimmy Needham?” After Jimmy signed a sheet of notebook paper for her, we exchanged a few cordial introductions then returned to our conversation. I am very grateful for that girl today and her support of Jimmy and his music but again, these are the things just make our life… weird.

Most of you reading this are probably already familiar with my husband and his music. For those of you who have no idea who he is and wonder why you should, I am glad you are here! Honestly, he is just a normal guy like any other. But to most people he is Jimmy Needham. He is a Christian singer/songwriter and recording artist with Inpop records. He is played on radio stations across the country and in many other countries as well!

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my husband and I am thrilled to be married to him and absolutely love supporting him in his calling as a singer/songwriter/recording artist. But the truth is, that because of what he does, our life is different. 

Jimmy’s growing fame was originally a source of great insecurity and frustration for me. When we got married, all our friends and family knew me for me: my personality, my strengths and weakness, my love for Jesus. But when we were on the road, people only knew me for one thing: I was married to Jimmy.

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Norwegian Lessons

Lively in Sweden!

1:30am here in Norway, and Jimmy is about to take the stage for the 3rd time today! You’d think that’d be way to late to start a concert, but since it doesn’t get dark till around 11pm, it’s easier to stay up that long. I actually don’t know if these people actually sleep at night! I’m definitely loving the long days, but 9pm comes so quickly when the sun is up! It’s amazing how much I count on the sunset to let me know what time it is.

I mentioned in my last blog that I have been hoping God would speak to me while we’re here, and so far He’s come through! Though the lessons I’m learning since arriving in Scandinavia have been good, they’ve also been hard. It all started with “an honest moment” I had with God in Sweden a couple days ago. Though I’m generally pretty frank with Him, I tend to keep silent when my frustration is aimed at how He is running things because I know how limited my view is. But every now and then, I just have to let Him know my grievances. Let me share this moment of honesty with you.

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Greetings from Sweden!

Greetings from Sweden!

Lively and I are traveling with Jimmy and the band this week on a tour of Scandinavia! We will be visiting the beautiful countries of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and enjoying the cool weather and many hours of sunlight! Being here reminds me of when Jimmy was in Denmark last September. It was during his 10 day trip to Denmark that I decided to do 10 days of prayer and repentance. What a joyful and sweet time that was for me! You can read about what God spoke to me here on my blog in the September archives. This week, I am hoping and praying God speaks to me just as clearly!

Honestly today, I am just happy to not be on a plane! I feel like every mom who travels overseas with an infant should be given an award! A 3-hour flight followed by a 9-hour flight is no small feat. Especially when you have passengers staring at you every time your baby cries. Then we arrived in a country where it is 7 hours ahead of the time zone Lively has known all her short life and where the sun doesn’t set till 10pm and rises around 3am. Let’s just say yesterday was just a tad exhausting.

Now that both my daughter and I have had a good night’s sleep, things are going much better. =) Plus, it is always a joy to be around Jimmy’s band. These guys are like brothers to me and are such incredible men of God. They have embraced Lively like their own niece and gladly entertain her and hold her as I need help.

So now that we have settled in here in beautiful Sweden, I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in my day and a half of being here:

1. Don’t assume every carton next to the cereal is milk. Today I poured what appeared to be something like sour cream on my cereal.
2. There are a lot of very tall and very blonde people in Sweden.
3. You don’t need air conditioning here because even in the summer it is cool.
4. The Swedish have really good coffee!
5. Needing sunglasses outside at 9pm is a very strange feeling.

That’s all for now! I’ll be posting pictures later this week and more updates from Norway. Goodbye for now!