The Chain Breaker

By: Brenda Wetzel

chainIn grieving the recent loss of my dad, I’ve been reminded of the many wonderful characteristics he has blessed me with, but of also the shortcomings we share. I credit him with my deep faith and heart for God, adventurous, independent spirit, persistence and resourcefulness. But there are also some less attractive traits, one of which I will call “Right.” For me this includes the need to be right and the need to do it right (perfectionism). Both of these are toxic to relationships. Ask Al.

If you’ve read The Hobbit, you know that Gollum has a ring that has so much power over him he calls it “my precious.” Well, Right is “my precious” and its power over me is straight from Satan. He uses all the usual scare tactics and lies to have me believe I need and must have “my precious.” He whoops with glee and does his happy dance every time I succumb to it. And it has me in chains.

The only Chain Breaker I know is God. He is the only force strong enough to break the chain of “my precious.” To relinquish something so precious requires that I relabel it. Instead of considering it precious, I need to recognize what it is. Poisonous. But merely giving it up leaves its power intact. Not good enough. Just like the ring, it needs to be destroyed. And God has promised to do it.

God knows my struggle and reminds me that my part is to keep my eyes fixed on him and resist the devil. I trust his promise. The devil will flee from me. Some days I remember my part and others not so much. But through it all, he wipes away every tear and assures me that while the battle rages on, I can believe that the victory has already been won.

To borrow the lyrics of a favorite song, my Victory has a name. Jesus.

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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

Spirit.”

1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-19

footstep

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.