Recovering Perfectionist

Ok folks. If I’m honest, I’m really only okay being a needy sinner for a few minutes, a few hours, a few days maybe. But at a certain point I feel like I’ve wallowed in that gospel-neediness long enough and it’s time for me to get out there and DO something. Old habits die hard.

I know it’s cliché, especially in a job interview, to say you’re a “recovering perfectionist”—maybe in Christian circles it’s just a nicer way of saying “repentant judgmental Pharisee” (very likely)—but truly, I am. Here’s the problem: I see my deep, gaping need for a savior. All the things I’ve heard mature Christians say for years (The more you walk with Christ, the more you realize you need him. Greater knowledge of God leads to greater humility.) I see and understand. But the problem is:

I really, really, reeeeeally, REEEEEEALLY want to be good in and of myself.

I am so tempted to just try harder. I hope I’m not alone in this. I deeply believe the truth of the gospel, I understand that my righteousness unto justification is found in Christ alone. But I desperately want to add my righteousness to this. Especially when I see some area in my life that I’m lacking.

Here was my old legalistic pattern:

1. Identify a sin in my life.

2. “Repent” and develop steps to overcome it.

3. Implement steps to overcome the sin.

4. Fail, go back to Step 1, and Repeat.

Notice the lack of Jesus in this pattern? I put “repent” in quotes because what I was doing wasn’t so much turning away from sin to the gospel of Christ (to a substitutionary need for Christ) but a turning away from sin toward an attitude to do better, for God’s sake.

Here’s my new pattern:

1. Identify a sin in my life.

2. Repent and acknowledge the gospel (i.e. recognize Christ’s substitutionary righteousness over and above my own. Thank God for my status of justification IN Christ).

3. Implement steps to overcome sin…attempt not to fall into legalism.

4. Fail, Go back to Step 1, and Repeat.

See what I’m saying? I so, so desperately want to be good in and of myself that I feel like every time I even take a step in overcoming sin, I fall back into my same legalistic pattern as before. I haven’t figured out “gospel-empowered sanctification” on the ground. I believe that grace propels us to obedience, I just don’t quite know what that looks like. Am I missing something?

Is my problem in “implementing steps to overcome sin”? I think not, because Paul exhorts us to work out our own salvation and I am no Antinomian (I don’t believe grace negates the law). And how could we ever change our actions without actually doing something? I am overthinking this, I realize. You guys are getting a small taste of my analytical craziness.

Perhaps I’m missing a step between 1 and 2. Maybe I need to pray that my repentance would be genuinely grace-fueled and that the motives of my change of heart and actions would be pure, God-glorifying, and not out of disgust for myself and my “gospel-neediness” as described above. But, (look out, here comes the crazy) then that prayer could easily become another legalistic step I would create for myself. And if I do need that step, then if I didn’t pray for my repentance before I repented I’d have to repent of my wrongful repentance.

I’m gonna stop now before I scare you away for good. Thanks for listening. Help?


Suburbianty: Book Reflection

Suburbianity: Book Reflection | Roots like Oaks

What have we done to the Gospel? Can we find our way back to Biblical Chrisitanity?”

These are the subtitle questions Suburbianity by Pastor Byron Yawn seeks to answer. I would sum up the term “suburbianity” as nominal, culturally-defined Christianity which preaches and believes a false gospel of self-esteem boosting spiritual jargon, loosely tied to Jesus. This book was convicting, thought-provoking, and a great conversation starter. In just over 200 pages, Pastor Byron basically makes the case that suburbianity is not the gospel; indeed, the gospel is the gospel and we ought not forget it.

In his introduction, Pastor Byron makes a series of statements designed to gauge your understanding of Christianity as compared to suburbianity. They are statements like:

Being a Christian is not about being a good person.
Wealth is not a sign of God’s favor.
There is no essential difference between local and world missions.
Jesus would be confused in many of our church services.
Vegetables can’t sing. (p. 11-13)

While I agree with most of his statements wholeheartedly, some (most even, I would argue) need more fleshing out than 226 pages can contain. He counters the critic with “A Rejoinder” at the end of the book which gives one scriptural defense for each statement. Pastor Byron is attempting to “pull evangelical fish out of water” in order to objectively look at what we’ve been swimming in (p. 14). I think it’s obvious that he is going for shock value with many of his statements, sort of a big wake-up call to those inundated with Christian subculture.

Byron Yawn pastors in Nashville, TN: the heart of the “Bible Belt.” I live in one of the most un-churched, socially liberal (but highly “spiritual”) regions in the U.S.–that is I live in the suburbs of Denver, CO. But fascinatingly enough, his descriptions of suburban folk in Nashville fit pretty closely with suburban folk here. Though they may not consider themselves Christians, suburban Denver folk are usually middle-class, affluent, conservative, and heavily emphasize family values. So maybe our contexts are not quite so different as geography and demographics would suggest. There are certainly plenty of people in Denver, suburbanites or otherwise, that need to hear the true gospel.

The rest of book is broken down into three parts: The Gospel, The Bible, and The Church. In the first chapter of “The Gospel,” Pastor Byron relates the story of Joe approaching him after a church service to tell him he had brought his unsaved parents with him, to which Pastor Byron replied:

“That’s great. Thanks for joining us here at Community.”

“Well actually it’s been a huge mistake. I’m sorry I brought my parents here. You’ve reinforced every stereotype they have about Christianity. I can’t believe you preached for forty-five minutes and never mentioned the gospel. This is tragic.” (p. 68)

Joe then walks away with slumped shoulders before Pastor Byron can form a response. I loved this story because of the impact it had on Pastor Byron’s life and preaching. I know I’ve felt this way before in church services and wouldn’t be able to say it with the genuine love and concern that Joe did. But I just love hearing peoples’ stories of “gospel wakefulness” (to borrow Jared C. Wilson’s term). Because, as Pastor Byron says, once the lightbulb comes on, it owns you. (p.71)

“The Bible” chapters were by far my favorite of the whole book. Here you really feel Pastor Byron’s passion for the gospel as the central message of the Bible and the point of our existence.

According to Calvary, our greatest need is not a better marriage, an improved self-image, financial success, or any other of the suburban daydreams. It’s reconciliation to a holy God. (p. 95)

He explains with zeal that Jesus is the central theme of the Bible and it is impossible to overemphasize Him. He hammers that the main point of Biblical stories and characters (Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David) is not to mimic them morally, but to see how their lives point to and culminate in Jesus.

At some places the Bible gives us a 30,000-foot view (as in the Old Testament histories), and at other times it plummets to ten inches off the deck (as in the New Testament epistles). But every book of the Bible is a description of events leading up to or disclosing Jesus and the implications of His life, death, and resurrection. (p. 115)

The Bible is either revealing [the gospel], explaining it, defending it, or encouraging us to live in light of it. (p. 115)

It is so helpful to read the Bible from this perspective. When you come to it with the self-help attitude of how-do-I-apply-this-to-me-ism, it’s so difficult to consistently read the Bible. But when you come to it with an attitude of how-do-I-apply-this-to-Jesus (and his life, death, and resurrection—i.e. the gospel) all of a sudden it all makes sense. I can attest to this personally.

“The Church” chapters are probably the most controversial because they touch on politics, strategies, ethics, missions, and what it means to have a “Biblical worldview.” These chapters are a great launching point for further conversation and are probably not intended to be the final word on how the church in America should look. He raises some excellent points about evangelizing our neighbors and considering the man in the suit and tie just as needy (for an atoning substitute) as those living in shacks in Haiti.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone living in the suburbs and especially pastors or others in ministry. I would recommend it to folks subscribing to suburbianity knowing that this book will likely offend them, but with the prayer that it might open their eyes to see Jesus. I’d also recommend it to folks newly “gospel-awakened” as an encouragement to keep on keepin’ on making Jesus a big deal.

Thankful Thursday

Today I join with other bloggers who devote space on their site each Thursday to gratefully acknowledge the Lord’s providences and blessings of the past week. I thank the Lord for…

  • His Faithfulness. God is so faithful to hear and answer prayer. My husband has been working diligently to procure a position as a firefighter and a couple of weeks ago was offered a position. We were able to attend his graduation from fire academy where he asked me to ceremonially pin on his badge. Very proud of him and very thankful to God for this blessing.
The badge was actually very difficult to pin. The Fire Chief had to help me haha

The badge was actually very difficult to pin. The Fire Chief had to help me haha

So proud of this firefighter.

So proud of this firefighter.

  • Surprises. After that long day of graduation festivities, my sweet husband surprised me with reservations at the hotel we stayed at before our honeymoon. We happened to be close by for the graduation and he knew that I would enjoy a little “stay-cation.” I did! The hotel is a restored castle and is absolutely beautiful. We got to spend a wonderful day together in the gorgeous spring weather. Speaking of spring…
The Cliff House | Manitou Springs, CO

The Cliff House | Manitou Springs, CO

  • Spring Weather. I feel like I talk about the weather as much as I talk about family on Thankful Thursday. But I feel like C.S. Lewis in that I see God’s glory in “the quiddity of things”–the “this-ness.” The essence. I’ve been known to declare each new season that begins to be my favorite. Spring is my new favorite. I’m blessed to live in a place that actually experiences four seasons for the most part. We’ve had thunderstorms, light breeze, sunshine, and budding blooms.
Big horn sheep enjoying the fine spring weather.

Big horn sheep enjoying the fine spring weather.

  • My mom. I already told her on Mother’s day that I’m thankful for her, but for the record I still am! She’s the greatest. I got to enjoy spending a lovely “girl’s day” with her last weekend which included a high tea, shopping, and manicures. Good times.
My mom and all her girls.

My mom and all her girls.

  • Wellness. I’m getting there. I mentioned on the Facebook page that part of the reason I haven’t been posting regularly is that I’m fighting some sickness. Not sure what it is exactly, but I’m finally starting to feel better. Thank you LORD.
  • Spontaneity. Even though I haven’t been feeling that well, my husband and I have been able to have several spontaneous adventures in the past couple of weeks. We’ve attended a concert (unplanned), stayed at a hotel overnight, and saw a midnight movie premier! I know these kinds of things would be more difficult or impossible if we had children or were in different financial circumstances. So I’m grateful to enjoy the stage we are at right now.

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1

What are you thankful for today?

Thankful Thursday

Today I join with other bloggers who devote space on their site each Thursday to gratefully acknowledge the Lord’s providences and blessings of the past week. I thank the Lord for…

  • My Husband. He is just patently awesome. I could name off all the things he has done for me (and others) in the past week, but he is more to me than what he does. He is a constant and faithful friend, like Christ. Also, we are both so thankful to God for the new firefighting job he has been offered this week! It has been a long journey for him and God has been faithful.
  • Prayer. Today is our National Day of Prayer for these United States. I’m thankful that we have this designated day to join together as believers for our nation. I’m thankful for the effectiveness of prayer to change my heart and attitude toward things. I’m thankful for a sovereign God who hears prayers. And I’m so thankful He is a loving Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children.
  • New Houses. Not for me, mind you, but for my momma. We helped her move this past weekend and I’m thankful for God’s provision for her! It’s a beautiful new place. Check out her awesome remodeling:

Thankful Thursday | Roots like OaksThankful Thursday | Roots like Oaks

  • Memories. Because my mom moved, we were forced to go through all of my dad’s clothes and decide what to keep and what to donate. We were all kind of dreading it, but it actually turned out to be a good time. My dad’s clothes brought back many good memories and all of us were able to keep some items that were special to us. I’m thankful for these memories.
Just a trash bag full of socks? No no my friend. Those are memories.

Just a trash bag full of socks? No no my friend. Those are memories.

  • VBS. I’m excited that our church is going to be hosting Vacation Bible School for the kiddos this summer. My younger sis and I are in charge of learning the hand-motions/choreography for the praise and worship songs to teach to the kids. Not gonna lie, I love VBS.

And my God will supply every need of yours
according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19a

What are you thankful for today?

50 Reasons Not to Fear Anything

These are tumultuous times in our world and culture. You probably have your own personal struggles as well. If you are in Christ, you need not fear anything because we serve a God who is present. He is truly Emmanuel: “God with us.”

An old Ginny Owen song contains this lyric that has always resonated with me: “It may not be the way I would have chosen, when you lead me through a world that’s not my home / But you never said it would be easy; you only said I’d never go alone.” I’m encouraged the most not by pat answers in the Bible, but by the promise of God’s direct presence. He’s like the friend that doesn’t need to say anything, just sits next to you and puts his arm around your shoulder. That’s what He does for us.

So here are 50 reasons in scripture not to fear (hint: they all say the same thing). I hope you find it encouraging today:

  1. And the Lord appeared to him (Isaac) the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” Genesis 26:24
  2. Behold (Jacob), I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15
  3. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” Genesis 31:3
  4. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers. Genesis 48:21
  5. He said (to Moses), “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:12
  6. I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. Exodus 29:45-46
  7. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them. Exodus 32:34
  8. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Numbers 14:14
  9. You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. Deuteronomy 7:21
  10. Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy. Deuteronomy 23:14
  11. The Lord your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken. Deuteronomy 31:3
  12. Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
  13. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with youhe will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
  14. And the Lord commissioned Joshua the son of Nun and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the people of Israel into the land that I swore to give them. I will be with you.” Deuteronomy 31:23
  15. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5
  16. The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. Joshua 3:7
  17. And the Lord said to him (Gideon), “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:16
  18. And if you (Solomon) will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. 1 Kings 11:38
  19. Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” 1 Chron 28:20
  20. In the cover of your presence you hide them

   from the plots of men;

  you store them in your shelter

   from the strife of tongues. Ps 31:20

21. For the Lord loves justice;

he will not forsake his saints.

They are preserved forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. Ps 37:28

22. By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,

and at night his song is with me,

a prayer to the God of my life. Ps 42:8

23. God is our refuge and strength,

very present help in trouble. Ps 46:1

24. For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage. Ps 94:14

25. A man of many companions may come to ruin,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Prov 18:24

26. fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is 41:10

27. When the poor and needy seek water,

and there is none,

and their tongue is parched with thirst,

I the Lord will answer them;

I the God of Israel will not forsake them. Is 41:17

28. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you. Is 43:2

29. Fear not, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you. Is 43:5

30. For you shall not go out in haste,

and you shall not go in flight,

for the Lord will go before you,

and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Is 52:12

31. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord. Jeremiah 1:8

32. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you. Jeremiah 1:19

33. Why should you be like a man confused,

like a mighty warrior who cannot save?

Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us,

and we are called by your name;

do not leave us. Jeremiah 14:9

34. And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you,

declares the Lord. Jeremiah 15:20

35. For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord; Jeremiah 30:11

36. Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. Jeremiah 42:11

37. Fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord, for I am with you. Jeremiah 46:28

38. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:27

39. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,

and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.

And my people shall never again be put to shame. Joel 2:27

40. The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

41. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.” Haggai 1:13

42. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. Haggai 2:4-5

43. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. Zechariah 2:10-11

44. teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

45. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever. John 14:16

46. Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. John 16:32

47. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” Acts 18:9-10

48. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 2 Corinthians 4:13-14

49. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

50. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Col 3:16