Wrestling, Rocks, Idols, and Numbers 16

Most of my life, I’ve been wrestling.

Now, before that statement gets misinterpreted, I’m not a jacked, throw-‘em-down, and make-them-beg-for-mercy type gal. In fact, I hate contact sports. What I’m talking about is an internal wrestle. It’s a constant pull between two things: the path of life and peace, and the path that leads to death.

I know that sounds extreme, but it’s very true.

As a first grader, I stole rocks from my teacher’s rock collection.  I remember sitting in the back of the room with the rock bin thinking I should just get up and walk away, but for some reason, the lure of the Tiger Rock was too strong. I knew stealing was wrong, but the stone was shiny, and I wanted it…

In high school, I snuck out of the house to play a board game with several of my friends. I analyzed which window didn’t have an alarm sensor on it, pulled it open, and climbed out. As I walked to my car, I thought about the consequences and reconsidered my decision, but I kept going. I put the engine in neutral and rolled down the street.

As a young adult, I wrestled with a cute shirt at The Gap. It was $52.00. I didn’t have money for it. I stood there wondering if I could charge it and pay later…I chose to walk away without the shirt.

I think you get my point.

Small and large decisions give us the opportunity to think about the path we want to take. The problem is choosing the right one. For some, walking down ‘the straight and narrow’ is their first choice – their natural bent. Unfortunately, for me, it’s not.

Since I’ve been married, I have come face-to-face with the root of my bad decisions. For a long time, I saw each bad decision or each emotional struggle as something completely separate from all of the others. Today, however, I believe they are all a little more connected than I originally thought.

You see, about five months ago, I hit a rough patch.

I was newly married and transitioning through a lot of change. At the same time, I felt spiritually disconnected, unmotivated to follow Christ, and distracted when it came to the meaning of life. My mind kept fixating on lies, and my actions were beginning to respond to them, as well. I knew I didn’t want to be in the place that I was, but both my heart and my head weren’t ready to move anywhere else. I was frustrated. I felt stuck.

On a flight to Dallas, I opened up a book written by Timothy Keller entitled “Counterfeit Gods,” and I finally took a step forward.

“Idolatry is always the reason we ever do anything wrong…there is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself. We would not lie unless we first had something – human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage – more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God. The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.”

I was in awe.

I put the book down and immediately started reflecting on the sin in my life.

Where do I normally stumble? Where do I typically give in to the desires of my flesh instead of the Spirit? I thought of few things and then asked myself more questions. Why do I stumble in those places? What motivates me to make the bad decisions I make?

It didn’t take me long to identify three reasons. Three idols. Three “counterfeit gods”:

First, there’s adoration and acceptance.

Most of the sin in my life is rooted in the desire to be well liked by others, to fit in, or to be considered as awesome. (Who doesn’t like to be awesome?)

It typically leads to jealousy, competitiveness, or trying to get the attention of others through superficial things. In the past, it led me to find meaning in how much attention I could get from guys or in how ‘fit/skinny’ I was.  Today, I find myself saying things I shouldn’t or comparing myself to others in a way that is not glorifying to Christ. I can easily crave the acceptance and praise of others over the acceptance and love of God. (Which I know He provides.)

Secondly, there’s self.

Often times, I just want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. It’s selfishness at its finest. It’s thinking I’m more important than the other people in my life.

This idol pops up when I’m in line at the grocery store and the woman in front of me won’t stop talking to the cashier when I want to check out. I get frustrated, and it’s obvious. It’s also apparent when my husband wants to go over our finances, and I choose to get distracted with something else. Instead of honoring him and serving him by giving him my full attention, I do what I want. (I don’t like numbers.)

Any time I don’t do the good I know I ought to do, the idol of self is to blame.

Lastly, and quite possibly the most disgusting of them all, is pleasure.

It’s seeking happiness in the moment instead of what’s right.

Eating too much dessert, being lazy instead of being productive, spending too much time on Facebook instead of spending time doing things on my to-do list. Yuck!

Idols are funny. We worship them, but then make bad decisions or experience bondage on their behalf. We are broken people.

Identifying the deep idols in life was huge for me. I began keeping a list of all of times I was swayed by each idol, and I was amazed at how influential they all were. I experienced a lot of freedom through this process as I confessed and asked for God’s help with each one.

I wish I could say that today, after discovering the idols of my heart and confessing them to God, I am idol free, but it’s just not the case. Even though I feel as though the Lord has helped me give certain areas over to Him, which has decreased the power of some of my idols, I still struggle.

Proverbs 14:12 reads like this: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

Today, I can say that I want freedom from my idols (which was not where I was several months ago), but at the same time, I want all of the things that I think my idols will secure for me. I still want the popularity and praise from those in my life that adoration and acceptance brings. I still want the comfort of selfishness and the temporary happiness and relief I find in pursuing paths for pleasure. At the same time, I know these things lead to death. We were not created to life our lives for ourselves. Sin kills.

Romans 8:6 reads: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35 read: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

 I know that following Christ means abandoning my self and my own order of doing things. God created me and He designed life. He has a way He intended life to be lived, and that design includes Him being my only God. In order to follow Christ, and live a life of peace, I must fall in love with following Him with every area of my heart – even the ones currently possessed by idols. The problem is, it feels scary, and I like comfort. (See idol number 2.)

As I seek to loosen my grip on the idols in my life, and I struggle with the fear involved in doing so, I must remember there’s a solution. I’m not alone in my wrestling, nor am I alone in my attempt to be more like Christ. He made a way for victory.

Let’s go to Numbers 16:41-50. I think it paints the picture well.

In this passage, the Israelites are still wondering through the dessert under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Instead of trusting God with the leaders He appointed (Moses and Aaron), all of the Israelites “grumbled” against them. They grumbled against God. They wanted to do things their own way. They didn’t want to live under the authority of the Lord.

So God chose to give them what they wanted – life apart from Him. God sent a plague.

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them.’ So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped” (vs. 46-48).

Just like Aaron (the one God appointed to make sacrifices for the sins of the community) stood in between life and death for the Israelites, Christ stood in between life and death for you and me. Christ, through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, bridged the gap for us. For those who genuinely believe in Him, the plague of death has stopped. We have been rescued.

Seeing the sin in your own life and wishing it wasn’t there is hard. Trying to rid your self of it is impossible. It is only accomplished through the work of God himself, and a willing and submissive heart.

As I sit here wrestling with the goodness of God, and the temptation to choose my idols over Him, I am encouraged to not give into death.

“Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:9&10).

He is the giver of life. He gives us abundantly what we need. We can seek to let our idols rule, but in the end, they will only fail us. We can put all of our energy into our idols, but they will only lead to sin, which, if you think about it, is a waste of energy. If we want, we can keep depending upon our “counterfeit gods,” while still claiming that we believe that Christ is enough, but it will only lead to death. There’s no debate about it.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and cruses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers…” (Deuteronomy 30:19&20).

May we all abandon our idols, and all of the gods we worship, so that we may choose life with the only God there is.

The Importance of "Only"

“The thief comes ONLY to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

I have heard this verse, and have read it myself, several times over, but it wasn’t until a couple of days ago that I fully grasped what it is saying. For some reason, in the past, my ears have failed to hear and my eyes have failed to read the word “only” – and, to be honest, I think it’s a big word to miss.

Let me start with a story…

My first job out of college was working as a Project Coordinator for a Seattle-based marketing company. I learned lots of fun (and not-so-fun things) while working there, but one of my favorite moments of each day was when the FedEx guy would walk into my office and update me on his life. Each day, David would come through the door, walk up to my desk, put down the packages he was delivering, hand me the tablet to sign, and then fill me in on everything that happened since he had left the day before.He was always energetic and, was therefore, entertaining to listen to. From camping trips with his daughter to date nights with his girlfriend, he was always up to something.

What’s my point here?

As fun as talking with David was, the truth is, we were only friends because he brought packages to the company I worked for. David’s ONLY job was to bring me boxes, and my ONLY job with him was to sign for them. He was assigned the duty of delivery, and I was assigned the duty of receiving. That’s it.

What’s my real point here?

John 10:10 says that the enemy’s ONLY objective is to steal, kill and destroy. That’s his mission statement. His goal each day is to rob us of life. That’s it. That’s all he does. He isn’t trying to do anything else. In fact, he can’t do anything else because he’s that evil. He ONLY steals, kills and destroys.

As I meditated on this, I thought about how I’ve seen the enemy attempt to steal life from me. He’s crafty (Genesis 3:1) and he seeks to destroy (1 Peter 5:8). He sees my desire to follow the Lord, and he wants to stop me. He wants to take life from me – and he wants me to lose. He wants failure for me. Why? Because he doesn’t want God to get glory. He wants the fame – and he fights to get it. The enemy wants my mind, my heart, and my life – and he wants yours, too.

Intense? Totally! Scary? If you’re a believer, no.

The Word says there is confidence and security in Christ: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Satan, the enemy, longs to destroy us. He wants to kill us…slowly…and in the most miserable way. Jesus, our Savior, wants to give us life, and He won’t give us up. We find ourselves being fought for. We find ourselves in a battle.

There have been times in my life where I have crumbled in insecurity, obsessive thoughts, or feelings of inadequacy in my relationship with the Lord or others. I am realizing, as my life goes on and I struggle through various hardships, that the enemy purposefully attacks me so that I get stuck and thrown off track. In these moments, I get turned around and start to focus on me, how I feel, and what I think, instead of what the Word tells me about God and the life he created me to live.

He robs me of life and joy.

That’s his tactic and my response must not be self-pity, or a drive to control, but an effort to fight. I must press against him and run to what’s true. I must remind myself that I’m not the enemy’s, but that I’ve been bought with a price. I’m the Lord’s. The enemy can’t have me.

We are commanded to fight : “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done EVERYTHING, to stand. Stand firm…” (Ephesians 6:10-14).

Satan wants us, but he can’t have us (John 10:28). If we are the Lord’s (meaning that we have placed our trust in the fact that He alone is God, and we can’t save ourselves but must trust in the cross which paid the price for our sins), then we are saved. He can’t steal us from God, for God holds power over the enemy. We must fight. Lean into the Lord. Ask him to search you and take away any false dependency, identity, lie or addiction from you so that you can grasp the power that’s at hand through His death and resurrection. (See John 11:25 &26.)

God’s word doesn’t say that Satan “sometimes” robs us of life. The Word says he ONLY robs us of life. That’s a lot different. So anytime we have a thought that isn’t of the Lord (obsessive worry, self-criticalness, or impurity), we must confess it. We must ask Him to help us and teach us to take Him at His word. When we lack in faith or trust, we must ask for it because our reaction to the temptations and hardships in our lives are crucial.

If the enemy ONLY lies, our response must be to disprove the lies he throws at us.

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15&16).

The enemy takes, but the Lord gives. Choose life over death. It’s harder at certain times than others, but keep going. The Lord is faithful, and He’s good. He loves you. Trust Him.

Misery and MEGA Change


I’m not going to lie. I haven’t been in the writing mood much over the past few months (as you can see from my lack of posts). The reason? I’m not sure. I mean, it’s not like there hasn’t been a handful of important and/or memorable events to write about. From Christmas, concerts, a great trip to Boston with Caleb, playing roadie for an all-women country music showcase, the loss of someone close to my family, the wedding of one of my close friends, a car wreck, and accepting a new job, you’d think I’d find inspiration somewhere! It just didn’t hit…until this morning.


As I hinted at above, I recently accepted a new job. I start on Monday, and I am super excited for the new opportunity at hand (I’ll be doing outreach marketing for a local hospital). The only thing that weighs in the back of my mind is the exit I have to make from working at a place I love so much – Watermark Community Church. Over the past year-and-a-half, I have experienced so much life change from just being a part of the staff team there. It’s hard to imagine not going there every day of the week.

I remember walking through the doors on day one so uncertain of what my time here would look like. With training in various aspects of college ministry and marketing, I knew that Watermark would be a positive experience, but I had NO idea how that positivity would develop. You see, in the summer of 2010 (when I came on staff), I was still deeply struggling with obsessive thoughts toward exercise, and the desire to restrict my food intake to control the way I felt about myself. Not only that, but during my first six months there, I struggled with the deepest season of insecurity I had faced since high school.

I was miserable, and I wanted out.

Through these things, and a few others, I realized that there were many areas in my heart that the Lord needed to work on, and I was learning for the first time ever that thinking I could fix myself was not only arrogant, but also fruitless. My white-knuckled efforts only landed me in the same spot I had been the week, month or year before. Leaning into Christ was the only way I could go. Exposing the lies I had believed to myself, confessing them to the Lord and to others, and then running to the truth in scripture to combat them was the only thing I could do. I am forever grateful for this lesson. It has reshaped the way I see sanctification and the type of effort I should have in it.

I also realized that when you’re stuck on yourself – trying to fix yourself and focusing on what others think of you instead of the acceptance you have in Christ as a believer – you miss out on the amazing opportunity to love others. The Lord performed heart surgery on me by tackling the areas in my life that he wanted to transform and, because of it, I was freed up to deeply enjoy the people I interacted with from day to day.

At Watermark, I work in something everyone calls the MEGA Cube (the MEGA, for short). The MEGA is giant cube that consists of six smaller cubes housing all of the Community and Connecting Admins – and it’s pretty much THE place to be! Over the past couple of years, the personalities within the cube have changed, but the friendships in it have persevered. From Crystal to Tucker, Dana to Erin, Amanda, Lauren and me, the laughter is abundant, and the discussions are both intentional and entertaining. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t laugh really hard – and there are several memories that play out in my head on a regular basis that I hope to never forget: Volunteer-shoe-fix-it day with Dana, the Balloon War with Amanda, Winagetasung, creating a fake email account and emailing my boss asking random questions….the list goes on. I will truly miss the people this cube holds. I’ll miss Lauren’s gentleness and her ability to tune-in and work through the chaos going on around her. I’ll miss Tucker’s ability to talk about anything for a really long time and her knowledge of random deep-Southern traditions. Erin’s smile and concern for others makes each day a little brighter, and if you don’t know my friend Crystal, you should because she’s smarter than the smartest person you know and she uses the best metaphors while telling stories. Man, I’ll really miss Amanda’s ability to turn any topic into something exciting and the way that Dana sees, understands, and meets people right where they are. I can already tell this transition is going to be harder than I thought…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, it’s that people and the relationships we have with them are quite possibly the greatest gift the Lord gives us on earth.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:18 – 20).

Make the most of the friendships you have. Learn how to love well. Watch how Christ is committed to you, and commit to loving others. Step outside of the rules you try to keep and the things you wish you could change about yourself, and focus on the fact that he’s made you to be you – not anyone else. If you know Christ and the payment he paid on the cross for your sins, if your head knowledge of this payment and the grace he gives outside of your own merit or effort transfers to your heart, then please believe Him when he says you’re fully loved and fully accepted. It changes the way you see things.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38&39).

A Thing is More Than a Thing

I have come to believe that nothing is just something. Just when you think a book is just a book, you end up learning something profound in its pages. A song becomes more than just a fine melody when you gain clarity through one of its stanzas…I could go on for hours.

Two weeks ago, I went on a trip to New York City.

From the moment we landed I knew the trip was going to be freeing. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, and my Toms made their way out of my suitcase. I breathed deeply and got ready for the adventure at hand.

Setting off from our hotel, we walked down 5th Avenue, checked out Trump Tower, strolled down Broadway and 7th, and trucked it through Central Park. We took pictures of the Dakota, the last residence and murder spot of John Lennon, and ventured through Strawberry Fields. The history was rich. My respect for the city grew. As we walked around, I remember admiring the fashion and the way people hurried in their business suits from one place to other. I was fascinated by the tall cathedrals and beautifully constructed buildings, and, to be completely honest, was a bit envious of the way in which people seemed to be taking on their dreams.

That night, as I was walking into my room to go to bed, I told my mom, “This place makes me want to succeed at something.” I would soon realize the depth of that statement.

The next morning, I woke up and went down to the deli next to our hotel. I bought a cup of coffee, pulled out my Bible and pen, and started reading. I came across this verse, and it wouldn’t leave me alone:
Jeremiah 7:23&24 reads, “But I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.”

You see, a big part of my story is a continual struggle with trying to find meaning in things that were never purposed to give me such. On this list are a variety of things: a reputation; a certain amount of money; a job title; a particular body shape; and a busy schedule. On that day, in that little deli, I realized that many of the things that once plagued me were, once again, beginning to offer me a dose of their toxins. The idols had fallen off of their thrones, but they had not been destroyed.
Psalm 81:9&10 reads, “You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to any alien god. I’m the Lord your God…open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

In that moment, I realized that my heart was becoming unfaithful. The success that I desired the night before was not the right kind of success. It was success geared at making much of me, and not much of God. I was amazed at how easily an environment had influenced my heart. Would I seek God if I lived in New York City? The question haunted me.

On the plane ride home, later that week, I thought about the question. I spun it around in my head. I looked at the people on the plane, and then thought about it some more. Here’s the answer I came to:
My pursuit of anything that leads me away from God’s design for me is futile. Through my own pain and rebellion,

I’ve learned that one thing is certain – God deals with the sinner whom He loves, and He does what He wills to capture his or her heart again. I could live in NYC and pursue all there is to pursue. I could chase money, success, things, status, etc., but deep down I know that all of those things would lead me to a state of emptiness. I’d end up in a place wanting nothing more than life, joy and peace. I’d end up in a dark place asking God to, once again, turn my life around. It’s a circle.

You see, things that weren’t designed to fill us never can.
Matt Chandler frequently talks about the fact that we are our own number one joy robber. I think it’s legit. No one thing robs me of my joy as much as I do. My decisions, my choices to ignore the convictions the Holy Spirit places on my life, my declarations to go my own way when desiring something of this world, they all rob me.

In Christ is life. Drinking of Him means to drink life at the fullest possible level. When my walk with Him is thrown off, when my fellowship with Him is interrupted, my life lacks peace and my heart becomes ill.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within” (John 7:37&38).

My little trip to New York was no longer just a trip to New York. It had become an instrument the Lord had used to reveal to me the depth of my brokenness and my desperate need for Him. I was aware, more than ever, of my idols. He used the experience to remind me that He created me, and He knows what satisfies. He satisfies, and He alone is God.