Pride and Authenticity

By: Hickory Smith

comparisonI have a pride problem. I want to say that it’s other people’s pride, but it’s really my own.

Prideful and arrogant people bug me. I hate their cockiness and over confidence. I can sniff it out a mile away and it turns me off. I might even think something like. “Ooh, look at you in your little self-righteous high tower.”

But then again, there are times where people could say the same about me. Also, if I am judging others on their level of confidence, am I not being prideful and arrogant myself?

The reality is that my own pride is unstable. Sometimes it’s fragile, sometimes it’s volatile. Sometimes it’s both.

What I notice sometimes is this: Where I gristle at others’ confidence and pride is often where I am one of two extremes – either I am envious of their own strength in that area because I am lacking, or, on the flip side, I am over confident in my own position thinking I have it all together.

Competence is important to me. I put my standards high and then get frustrated when I or others do not meet them. My frustration comes when others do not meet those standards. But sometimes I am more frustrated with myself.

One person in the Bible that really interests me and that I find myself identifying with often is the Apostle Paul. He is an interesting study in how he handles his pride.

One of the verses I have posted up on my wall at work to help me with my own pride and confidence is 2 Corinthians 3:4,5:

“Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”

It is helpful for me to be reminded that any successes or points of my own significance are really because God sets my situation. Any pride because of results or my own capabilities needs to be seen in light of the source of any competence and resulting confidence.

If I am down on myself for any weakness I may have, I try to remember that God’s grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

On Sunday, Pastor Vince spoke of getting rid of our pride for authenticity and mentioned Hubristic Pride versus Authentic Pride. Are my actions and pride about me or is it about the God who saved me and enables me?

I hope and pray that I can be oriented by what Paul said in the last verses of 2 Corinthians 10,

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Let’s boast in the Lord and seek His commendation, letting him align our authentic pride.


The Epic Journey to Leave My House

By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

rain.jpegAttempting to control anything when it comes to small children is futile. The absolute worst is trying to get out of the house. I make my plan to leave at a specified time, taking into account missing shoes, bathroom breaks, and little people running around elusively. Yet with all those things factored in, I still cannot leave at the time of my choosing because of unforeseen circumstances and meltdowns…sometimes my own meltdowns!

When I am trying to get out of the house at a specified time and the world is not cooperating with me, I get so incredibly wound up. Just thinking about it now I feel my shoulders tensing! I wonder what my blood pressure would be if I wore a monitor during those agonizing moments when we’re trying to get out the door. I freak out because nobody is cooperating with MY PLAN! It would all go so smoothly if they could just do what I asked the first time.

On the rare occasion that I open up my clenched fists and release my plan, God does amazing things. I recognize an immediate change in my stress level when I say, “God, I have no idea how we’re going to get there in time, but You’ve got this. I trust You.” Then the whole situation gets put into God’s hands – where it should have been all along – and it’s up to Him. There is such freedom in releasing it back to him and waiting and watching to see how He’s going to work it out.

I remember one day in particular when we were running late, I started to back out of my driveway and noticed a woman I didn’t know walking slowly along the street and looking at me as if she wanted to speak to me. I rolled down my window and greeted her. She asked if I had a minute. I didn’t. But I engaged in the conversation anyway. Turns out that I didn’t have a minute in my plan, but God needed me to have a minute for her in His plan.

This woman worked in an assisted living group home in our neighborhood. While the residents were away at the day center, she would come in and clean the home. She had accidentally locked herself out of the house when she left to take out the trash that morning. Her keys, phone, wallet, everything was inside the locked home. She asked if she could use my phone and I invited her into my car because at that time it had started to drizzle too.

She was able to contact her supervisor and got back into the house. She was very grateful for my help, but I knew it wasn’t me. This was a divine appointment that God had given me for the day, and I was glad that I had stopped trying to control my day and instead submitted to His plan for my day. It was an honor to be there for this woman. I experienced deep peace and joy when I looked to God to control the situation instead of myself.

I wish I could say that I have lived happily ever after since, releasing my plans and control to experience God’s plans and freedom. That is not the case. But I’m trying. I’m learning. And the moments when I get it right are so rewarding that it leaves me wanting even more.

What About the Missteps?

By: Sarah Arend

“16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give

thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of

God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the




The Lord seems to work in ways that often that don’t make complete sense to me until down the road when I look back and see His hand in them. I have had many failed projects, missed opportunities, and missteps that I’ve taken. It’s easy for me to focus in on those failures or screw-ups.

I like things to go my way. I like to predict, dictate, and control my circumstances, my success, and my growth. But that is not always–and maybe not even usually–the case. There have been numerous times where, out of my control, things happen that weren’t in “the plan”.

No, I think, I need to fix this, this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be! What can I do?

Sometimes I can’t do anything. Sometimes my path is completely re-directed. And sometimes I need to sit in the fact that there might be a different road to a new destination for me.

It is in these times that resentment can begin to creep in because I felt entitled to my path, my plan. I can quench the spirit because when I am so fixated on my plan that fell through, I am blind to the work of God in other areas of my life.

I had it figured out, it was so perfect, it didn’t need changing.

I can’t say whether or not God intentionally alters my path to teach me to be pliable to his will. But I know for a fact that as I look back on some of the most “path-altering” moments of my life, when I felt the most entitled and grieved the loss of control the most deeply, the hand of God was working. He takes the failed projects, missed opportunities, and missteps to gently guide my feet towards a new destination, a new goal–one that is always greater than I could have imagined.

I feel resentment when what I want doesn’t happen how or when I want it to. I grieve the painful loss of control. But gradually, as I redirect, I can begin to see that somehow, this new path is better. It opens up opportunities, gives me time to grow, helps me to take moments of rest, or even is a chance to challenge my character. And suddenly, in the place of resentment and grief, I feel thankful. The change wasn’t supposed to be a stumbling block, but an opportunity for a blessing.

It’s almost like you knew, God. It’s almost like you know what I really need and what is really best for me.

I don’t know if my life being redirected will ever be easy, but I do know that how I view it is beginning to change. I have more hope that something good will grow. I am looking for the  change of plans to be an opportunity instead of a stumbling block. And I am trusting that the same God that has used my failures and made them into blessings will continue to transform and lead me through life.

Thank you God. Thank you for knowing me and what I need, even when I do not. I trust you, take my life and use it because you know what is best.

Pie for Dinner is Wonderful, but…

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

pieExcuses can feel like wonderful things. Any parent can tell you of the countless times that they heard an excuse from their child to make a punch ok, provide excellent justification for a job partially done, disprove decades of research on the nutritional benefits of cookies, and generally absolve responsibility for mischief…at least in the mind of the offender. For anyone on the receiving end, though, it’s more often a source of frustration or comic relief.

As I’ve thought through my own (vast) experiences with excuses, it’s pretty easy to see that they are an incredibly powerful tool of self-delusion, usually just trying to appease some aspect of my perceived emotional/physical/spiritual well-being at the expense of my actual emotional/physical/spiritual well-being.

-‘I don’t need to worry about praying at dinner…I read my Bible this morning.’
-‘I hugged my kid this morning…he knows I love him.’
-‘Sure, I can finish that pie…I ran 4 miles today.’

If I’m truly serious about anything in life, what reason do I have to not make every effort possible to show that I’m serious about it? Pie is wonderful, but isn’t a healthy body better? My kids are great, but how often do I let them know that I think they’re great? Following Jesus is an amazing opportunity, so why delay any opportunity to improve that relationship?

As we continue through this series about giving things up,  we’re challenged to give up our excuses for commitment, to recognize how our excuses pile up to hinder our growth in every area of life. If we’re honest with ourselves, we probably make many small excuses each week that can eventually have a huge impact on our relationships with God, others, and ourselves.

In the coming weeks, I invite you to ask me about my excuses and how I’m moving toward commitment. I also invite you to identify one specific area where you’re ready to give up your excuses in order to be more committed. As we share honestly with one another, the self-delusional power of excuses breaks down and we have a greater ability to grow.

When God Said, “Enough Already”

By: Al Wetzel, Church Chair

I was going to write about a cavemen Bible study group but that vignette was dropped when I heard the need for a story about “Giving up resistance to God for obedience to God”.  It’s a story that’s easily recalled and at times I’m compelled to give.

From the age of nine to thirty-six there were probably a half dozen times when I could feel God calling me and a strong urge in me to yield, but I just couldn’t.  In my youth my family, including cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, attended a charismatic church.  Sunday evening services were not fun; school was the next day, homework was not done AND there were altar calls.  Altar calls were accompanied by the beckoning sounds of Softly and Tenderly played by the organist (typically the pastor’s wife), all heads bowed, and the preachers’ exhortations to prostrate ourselves at the altar and accept Jesus.  Usually I shuddered at the experience, but one time when I was about nine, there was an overwhelming desire in me to heed the urging and accept Jesus at the altar.  This same evening my cousin Tom was altar bound but I noticed my parents wanted to leave so I resisted the altar.  Tom’s life became God filled, dynamic, and productive from that point on.  For me, the urges became harder to feel and they lay dormant for many years.

It took twelve more years for me to feel God’s calling again…and in Vietnam of all places!  I had been ‘in country’ for about four months so had become desensitized to just about everything.  By this time the days and even months began to blend together, but there was a Sunday when my friend, Gerry, asked if I would accompany him to a missionary led church service held in an empty Quonset building.  What’s to lose, so I went.  There was an incredible feeling of peace that filled my heart and I pondered it for the remainder of the day.  However, I put it aside and continued my crazy life.

Over the course of the following years my life got crazier but there were still a few times when I felt God calling and sensed a peace he alone could give.  Unfortunately, alcohol does not like to share its dominion so I continued my increasingly downward ways until God said, “enough already”.  Sometimes choices are imposed in a way where there is only one choice and for me it was to quit the booze.  But it wouldn’t leave my mind – it was all I thought about.  At my first AA meeting a friend, Doctor Dave, casually mentioned he had prayed for God to remove the urge to drink.  That night under the oak tree I asked God to remove the urge to drink and that I give up and submit to whatever He gives me.  Life started to make sense again.  Nine days later I realized that I hadn’t thought of alcohol and it no longer controlled my thoughts.  To this day I can feel completely comfortable in a ‘alcohol rich’ environment and not feel the need to partake.

What a deal, you give up some crazy thing to God and he gives you something over-the-top in return.  For me it was the emptiness of alcohol addiction for a wonderful and loving family.

My Time on Death Road

By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

Back in 2004, there was only one way to get from La Paz, Bolivia to Caranavi, Bolivia. One tiny road called El Camino del Muerte – which translated means “The Road of Death.” This one-lane road held two-way traffic, and it snaked through the mountains descending 8,700 feet in altitude. It was estimated that between 200-300 people died on this road each year, which isn’t surprising because there are at times cliffs of up to 2,000ft with no guardrails.

In 2004, it just so happened that I needed to get from La Paz to Caranavi, so I needed to travel Death Road.

I remember the morning clearly. My music ministry group and I arrived with all our gear at the designated spot to catch a bus down Death Road. I remember the fear I felt when I stepped onto that bus. I was about to travel down what was later to be named the Most Dangerous Road IN THE WORLD. Sometimes the bus drivers were known to have a drink or two before they got behind the wheel for this trek to help ease their nerves. I was 22 and wanted to live for many, many more years. I wasn’t sure this was a good choice.

The bus started and we began our journey. At first the road was like any typical highway, but then it got smaller and narrower, and soon we were on a one-lane gravel road. I was struck with a deep fear. I found myself oscillating between holding my breath, praying that the driver was a good one, and then going on to envision our bus careening off the edge.

Somewhere during that first hour I realized I had to let go. I had to release my fear and rest in the truth that God had already numbered my days. He knew if Death Road would be my end, or if I had decades to go beyond that day. When I started to let go of my fear, I began to look around with eyes of wonder.

The dry, cold, high-altitude of La Paz gave way to jungle. There was green everywhere and new plants and trees that I had never seen before. The mountains rose sharply on our right, the carved-out walls that nearly touched our bus dripping with small waterfalls or covered in cascading vines.

But if I peered out my window and looked straight down on my left…well, I couldn’t see the road under us. All I could see was thousands of feet down. Just writing about it now, 14 years later, my feet still sweat with fear! I had to give over my fear again and again and again on that bus ride.

It was all worth it. The glory of God’s creation I saw in those mountains remains unmatched to this day. And the people we met when we arrived in Caranavi still take up space in my heart. God was waiting to show me amazing things. I only had to open up my hands (hands that were so tightly gripping my fears!) and use those hands to hold onto God’s.


If you’d like to see a few images of Death Road, check out this National Geographic video, or if you’re feeling particularly brave, here’s a link to two cyclists using their GoPro as they bike down Death Road.


Who Is the One Hurting?

By: Darcy Mears, Children’s Ministry Coordinator

Forgiveness gives us warm fuzzies, it is a happy and welcoming word. Forgiving someone a small transgression is easy enough. Letting ourselves off the hook for human foibles is doable. We bump into each other in the hallway and say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘excuse me’ and we do truly mean it.  How quickly do we ask for forgiveness for the ugly and hurtful actions in our life? How often do we offer forgiveness to others when we are hurting inside? How often do we relive moments in our past that bring anger and tears to our eyes?

The sincere act of forgiveness can be difficult to achieve and can be even more tough to accept from others. Righteousness over how poorly we have been treated is hard to dismiss. The fact is, sometimes the past gives us a reason to explain our resentment and an excuse to hold the familiar feelings close. The other fact is, we are only hurting ourselves and our relationship with God. That other person has long since moved on from those atrocious actions and words. We are left to deal with our own hearts and heal ourselves. It begins with forgiveness. We must forgive others and ourselves to wholly move on with healing.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7

We had a horrible experience with a sick parent in our family. He was far away and his wife was in charge of his care. Over the course of one and a half years, we went through many moments of fear, anger, grief, and resentment. It felt like we were living in a nightmare. We couldn’t change what was happening and Grandpa was slowing fading away; only his wife could see him on a daily basis as all other family and friends live here, like us. I was rightfully upset at the events that had transpired and could not forgive those who were making decisions. I was also feeling very guilty for how my anger seethed inside. I felt blackness in my heart for other human beings. When the call came that the end was here and he was left alone on life support, rage reared its ugly head and camped in my soul.

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. …Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses.

Until I accepted my feelings and the realization we all live with evil in our lives, I was not able to forgive myself. Until I forgave myself, I was not able to forgive others. Until I forgave others, I was not able to leave the past behind. Realizing I could forgive, and it didn’t mean I was saying it was by any means okay, was liberating; releasing my own feelings of resentment was a turning point. It required a tremendous amount of prayer and effort. Time does help heal wounds and soften the edges. Learning to embrace that God would make it right when it fit into His plan was a final moment of release for me. Forgiveness, regardless of the past, became a reality.

On Giving Things Up

By: Alex Blackwell, Student Ministry Pastor

Alli and I started a diet 19 days ago that lasts for 30 days. It’s hard. But I’m a fan. I’m not a proponent of dieting for everyone – some people eat healthy all the time. I am, however, a proponent of every single person finding something in their lives to give up – even if just for a season every once in a while. Each person should give up something different that is relevant to themselves. It should be something that is felt. It could be something that maybe even hurts a little – like this diet I’m doing. It should not, however, be something that is unwise (don’t give up water, please). So what is it for you? Not convinced that you should give something up? Here’s why I’ve found it to be life-altering:

Self-control. How can I expect to have self-control over anything in my life if I don’t have self-control over one thing in my life? Occasional dieting has forced me to think about what I put into my body and what I can’t anymore. All the gross things that are good for me that I eat and the wonderful things that are bad for me that I take a break from eating are all instances of self-control. And what I have noticed is that when I diet I open up a space in my life where I have self-control, and then that self-control bleeds into other areas of my life. We live in an indulgent society. The process of wanting something and not having it is first of all unheard of, but also incredibly rewarding.

Reminders. Every time I feel hunger or a longing for ice cream, it reminds me of… whatever I want it to remind me of. I choose for it to remind me to pray. You can assign any reminder you want to those feelings, but they’re some of the best reminders in life.

Freedom. It’s only when I started dieting that I realized that not only did I lack self-control over my eating habits, but I was controlled by them. Giving into our every desire leaves us at the mercy of whatever we desire. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Hopefully you’re convinced that there is a necessity for interrupting regular rhythms and giving stuff up every once in a while. They don’t even have to be bad things (let’s be honest, ice cream is heavenly). They just have to be things that are felt, but wise to give up, and only for a season, to regain self-control, become a reminder, and free us from our desires.

Cutting Through the Chaos to Listen

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

seagullMy house is pretty loud. That’ll happen with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. Hourly nonsensical screaming, arguing with each other, and songs randomly being sung at the top of their lungs are the norm. Trying to cut through the noise can be challenging, but it’s often necessary because important things need to be communicated: go brush your teeth, don’t sit on your brother, and many other statements I never really expected I’d have to say.

Psalm 46 contains a pretty well-known command: Be still and know that I am God. What’s truly fascinating is that the rest of the chapter (just 11 verses) describes absolute chaos. In the midst of that, God is calling us to ‘be still’ and refocus our understanding that He is exalted, He is in control.

I’ve never had an easy time listening to God. My mind too quickly jumps to everything else that’s on my list. That’s even more true when I’m stressed or anxious, when there’s a lot of chaos around me. But as I’ve thought through what it means to really listen, to take that time to have my focus shifted back to what’s important, I find a great reminder right in front of me. As I try to cut through the chaos to get my boys to listen to me, I will use those times to also, if even briefly, listen for those quick reminders from God that He’s in control.

Connecting With And Knowing Jesus

By: Vince Miller, Teaching Pastor
knowing Jesus“When he was at the table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  –Luke 24: 30-35
It would not have been strange for a few Passover pilgrims to join up along the road while traveling. In this passage, Cleopas and an unnamed disciple are in an intense discussion, walking along the way to Emmaus. Given the weekend’s events — the crucifixion of Jesus — this conversation was remarkably full of emotion and question. Little did they know, the risen Christ was walking and talking with them. They paused for the evening and invited Jesus, the stranger, to stay with them, as was their custom.
Jesus throughout this whole experience pretends to be unaware of the recent events. And Cleopas goes on to explain their understanding of Jesus, yet the disciples seemed to understand everything explained except the living fact that Jesus was right before them. But as Jesus breaks bread, this moment of devotion opens their “eyes.” So why? Clearly it had something to do with their communion that changed what they knew and how they connected to Jesus. This is because there is a cavernous difference between knowing about someone and truly knowing someone. Connecting those two sets of knowledge gave the men a glimpse of the risen Lord!
DO THIS TODAY: Connect with Christ in a deeper way today, not just with knowledge about but relational knowledge.