Day 18: Doer who's humble

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?‘  And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?’ And they said to him, ‘We are able.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.‘  And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.  And Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’
— Mark 10:35-45 ESV

Jesus asked this, “What do you want me to do for you?”

What if Jesus came to you and asked you this question?  What would be your answer?  Is there a need you are desperate to have filled today?  Would you plead someone’s case, asking God to move in their life?  Would you ask about an unfulfilled dream that you would hope Jesus could bring to fruition

I’m seven sentences into this blog post, and all of them have been questions.  I don’t know what I would ask Jesus to do for me.

I judgmentally look at James and John’s answer.  Surely I wouldn’t ask Jesus to place me at His level, make me His top dog.  Or would I?  (BTW, sorry for calling you Shirley!)

As I think back about my “striving hard to impress God” times in ministry, wasn’t this kind of what I wanted?  I wanted to be noticed, promoted, trusted with more, and praised.

James and John were asking to be second and third in command, placed in a seat of honor, and maybe even seen as holy.

When I strive to look “good” to people, isn’t being seen as holy my goal?

I don’t know about you, but I feel such conviction reading this passage.

Jesus told them, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

That answer must have felt so backward or inverted from what they were expected from Jesus.  Jesus isn’t giving them what they asked.

What I want in my deepest heart of hearts would not be to be a servant.  I can understand their confusion.

Jesus then left that conversation to go die on the cross, paying the ransom of so many in bondage to sin.

Yesterday we discussed freedom.  We considered being a DOER who is free by being someone who DOES out of love.

Serving out of love is the key to freedom and also the key to being more like Jesus, who tells us that He came to serve - not to be served.

When we come to Jesus concerned with our self-interest and self-promotion instead of coming to Jesus concerned about His Kingdom and His will, we are very likely to go away as disappointed as James and John were.  What matters most is His will, the advancement of His Gospel, and His story here on Earth.

A better stance would be to approach Jesus with the humility of a servant as we do, we find our assignment to serve others in our lives from a place of love.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
— 1 John 5:13-15 ESV


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I like to include a song with each blog post.  Here you go.  I love the guitar part at the end and the lyric, "I want to knit you a sweater, I want to write you a love letter, I want to make you feel better, I want to make you feel free."  Joni is a treasure.

Day 7: Gift vs. Obedience

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

What is the difference between a gift and just being obedient?

Let’s look at the Old Testament first, and maybe we can answer this question.

There are five Levitical sacrifices and offerings listed in the Old Testament:  Sin sacrifice, trespass sacrifice, burnt offerings, peace/thanksgiving offerings, and meal offerings. 

The sacrifices were required and necessary to atone for sin.  The offerings were voluntary.  In the burnt offering, the whole animal was burned, the priest could only keep the skin.  In a primitive life of limited resources, the wholeness of the animal being burned up instead of consumed was symbolic of complete dedication to God.

The peace or thanksgiving offering was also voluntary.  It was a foreshadowing of communion.

The meal offering was also voluntary; grain, oil, and wine were given at the tabernacle.  A portion was burned, and the rest was given to the priests.  The trinity was represented in this offering.

Now that Jesus has come, what is required of us?

No more sacrifices are required to cover sins, but a repentance is made when we come to believe that Christ is our savior.  (We will talk more about this idea in a couple days, hang with me.)

We also are still asked to give tithes and offerings to the church.

In the Old Testament, sacrifices were mandatory to have a right standing with God.  The voluntary offerings were made to show thankfulness, dedication, and nearness to God.  Even though they were voluntary, God asked His people to make these offerings in various scriptures throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and some of the prophet books of the Bible.

Even if these offerings were voluntary, they were done out of obedience.

In the New Testament, we give tithes out of obedience, but I believe any offering of time, money, and/or other resources are done out of obedience as well.  Any gift we give God is just obedience.

There is nothing we can give to God that isn’t already asked of us.

There is nothing we can give to God doesn’t already belong to God.

Did I just deflate your balloon?  Because I feel like mine has been deflated too.

I want to think that I have something to offer God, and I feel proud to hand over my time, talents, and money.  I like giving when it is unexpected.  Surprise, God!  I’m going to do this for you!  It doesn’t work that way.

I’m deflated because I’ve had it wrong in my head.  You see, I misspoke yesterday in my post about motivation.  I asked the question, “Why do I serve God?  Why do I sacrifice time and money for Him?”  Now we see that it isn’t a sacrifice at all.  It is obedience.

I had figured out my mistake in wording before I posted it, but I left it on purpose.  I wanted you, the reader, to see that I am working through these ideas as I go.  I’m drawing together what I have learned in my relationship with God and studying scripture.  I’m firming up my beliefs about how to serve Him.

Let me air that balloon back up for you.  The better way to look at this is that every part of our relationship with God is streaming from Him to us.  He is holding it all together and originating everything good and perfect in your life.

We have nothing to offer Him without first being given things from Him in our hearts, minds, and hands.

The pressure is off.

If we choose to give anything back to God, it first came from Him.  He gives, and we receive it. It is up to us how to use what has been given to us. 

Here’s another truth:  You cannot out-give God.


He has a tidal wave of love for you when you give Him love.

He has a tidal wave of strength for you if you choose to serve His kingdom.

He has promised to provide for all our needs, if only we seek Him.


He is abundance.

He is goodness.

He is love.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
— 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 ESV


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I like to include a song with each blog post because, why not?  I love Ryan Adams like Julie Andrews loves raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.  I almost broke up with my favorite podcast last week, The Popcast, because they were talking smack about my Ryan.  I guess I'll forgive them.

Growth & Humility Part 2

Two days ago I blogged about what spiritual growth looks like and how it leads to humility in Part 1.  One of the things I said was, “When I think back to the lessons I have learned they seem to fall into two categories: either times when God surpassed my expectations, answering prayers overabundantly, beyond what I asked Him or times when I tried hard and God let my efforts fail.”

On this post I wanted to give you some examples from my life where I have learned lessons and grown spiritually.

A few weeks ago, I was in one of those try hard and fail moments.

Lost and stuck.  That’s where I was.  Not where I was suppose to be and stuck in the mud.  Not alone either.  I had a van full of 5th and 6th grade girls, and where did I lead them?  Lost and stuck in the mud.

How did I get here?

Anxiety was rearing its ugly head that morning.  The reasons are too many to list.  For one, I was starting a new study in my Sunday school class.  I was nervous about it.  I wanted it to go well.

I was feeling all the physical symptoms of anxiety.  I was light headed and my stomach was churning.

Walking into Sunday school, I was asked the question that began my “try hard” journey.

“Could you drive a van?  The other ladies are taking their own cars.”

My thoughts were “I am feeling like the odd woman out.”  And, “I’m not even sure how to get to this camp.”

But instead, my voice said, “Ok.  I’ll do it.”

All during church the physical reactions from anxiety were compounding.  I couldn’t see anyway out of driving.  I jump in and tell myself that all I have to do is follow the person in front of me.  I can do this!

When I lose sight of the person in front of me and accidentally take the wrong highway, I should have called someone, told them to wait for me, but that’s not the move of a girl who can do anything.

I got this.  I’ll use my GPS on my phone.  (“I” is the key word here.)

So an hour and a half later, where am I?  At the exact dot that my flawed GPS tells me the camp is located.

And that silly dot is in the middle of a muddy field.  Maybe it’s time to call someone?  

No.  I still got this.  I’ll just turn around.  With a big 15 passenger van.  On a muddy dirt road.  With a dozen pre-teen girls.  What could go wrong?

Now I’m lost AND stuck.  Maybe it really is time to call someone.

I take out my phone, and after a dozen tries, I finally get a call through.

And here comes a farmer with a shovel to help us out.

I want to say that I was gracious to that farmer, but I honestly am embarrassed to report that I gave him a passive aggressive report on how I shouldn’t be there at all.  I said something about no one waiting for me and no time to look at a map.  And then I gave him a cold shoulder thank you before I drove backwards half the length of the dirt road to a place where it would be safe to turn the van around.

By that point, help was calling trying to give me directions, trying to find us.  I really hope I was grateful and friendly, but I can’t imagine that I was.  I was shame spiraling hard.

After driving another 10 minutes in the wrong direction, (of coarse I would turn the wrong way when I got to the main road), I finally found our help waiting to guide us to camp.

I was so upset, not about the van incident in particular, but with life in general.  Shame spiraling can cause you to look at life in an “all good” or “all crappy,” black & white sort of way.  I used my anxiety induced upset stomach to give myself an excuse to go home and not even help with camp that week.

What did I learn about God?  How did I grow?

I went home and spent some time reflecting on my bad attitude, my shame, and my anxiety.

I journaled, and I listened to audio books.  I kind of had a camp for one.

I did learn some things, but they were mainly about me.

On the other end of the spectrum there have been times when God blessed times of ministry and times in my life personally so overwhelmingly that I was awed by God’s love for me and for others.

I had a hard time narrowing down which example I wanted to share because there are so many times God has shown Himself to be trustworthy, faithful, and abundant.

Last year when I went on mission trip to Ethiopia, God accomplished so many miracles to provide for the orphans.  I was blown away watching God move to provide for those children.  Not just small things, but also big things like 350 mattresses and a latrine for the government orphanage.  This Christmas when I joined a group of just a few women to raise money for orphans in Uganda, I saw God provide $20,000 to purchase land for the orphanage.  After Christmas I joined another group of ladies to plan an interdenominational gathering for women in our city, I watched God provide every penny we needed to accomplish the event.  He also filled every seat that rented, set up, and prayed to be filled.  At Citychurch, I’ve watched God miraculously provide too many times to count.  I’ve also watched him change hearts and lives of children we minister to.

One of my favorite times God has blessed me was when God provided the money for my husband James and I to go on a vacation to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.

It was the spring of 2012.  James and I had gone through a rough couple of years, losing James’s dad, my mom’s hospitalization, having a newborn baby - i.e. sleep depravation, and losing my brother to suicide.

We were dreaming of getting away by ourselves for our anniversary.  Unexpectedly, God provided the exact amount of money that matched up with the vacation we had priced on Travelocity.

I was floored.

What did I learn from this?  How did I grow spiritually?

I learned that God loves me, and because He loves me, He gives good gifts.  I learned that God treasures marriage.  He cares about my marriage.  He puts value on it.

Just to contrast, when I tried hard and fell on my face, I learned something about me.  When God surpassed my expectations, answering prayers overabundantly, beyond what I asked Him, I learned about God.

Learning about me and my fleshly issues and learning about God and His faithful provision leads me to the same lesson.  That lesson is humility.  My humanity reminds me that I need God, and God’s magnificent graciousness reminds me that I need God.

My efforts are so futile, mind-numbingly futile.  God is awe-inspiring, and I am humbled at the grace His shows me.

Humility.  I’m there now, and I hope to stay.  

          ...And I lost it.  That lasted five seconds.  Oh well, I hope to visit as often as my flesh will allow.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:29-30 NIV
I like to post a song with each blog post because music makes me happy.  Sadly I'm not humble about my good taste in music.  This song by twins sisters who grew up in France and Cuba is from my favorite album released this year (so far.)

Growth & Humility Part 1

A dissection of 1 Corinthians 3

Have you heard of the wordless book?  It is an evangelism tool where the basic story of the gospel is told using colors.  The book is sometimes converted into bracelets with beads for portability and craft-ability.  There is a green bead that represents growth.  If the craft store is out of green, the craft isn’t canceled because the story of salvation can be told without understanding growth.

Is it really important?  What exactly is Christian growth?  What does it look like, and how do we know we are doing it right?

We know where we begin our journey of growth because Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3 that we start out on spiritual milk, not yet ready for solid food.  We live life in the flesh, still behaving badly.  We have jealousy, and we cause strife.

Verse 7 through 9 tell us this, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God's fellow workers.  You are God's field, God's building.”

Only God gives growth.  God plants.  God waters.

Also, Paul is recognizing that growth requires work on our part.  We cannot expect change without engaging in making changes and serving.  We cannot expect to learn without listening, reading, and seeking.

Growth is active.

And it begins with a foundation, a foundation of grace that only Jesus could lay.  He tells us take care how we build upon this foundation.  We are warned to carefully choose our building blocks because they will be tested with fire.

Growth comes from testing.

This has been true in my life.  My biggest periods of spiritual growth have been when life has gotten hard.  Not if, but when life gets hard, we can choose to stop growth or we can dig into God’s truth, lean hard on God’s grace and grow.  To put it another way, we can go on building on our foundation with worldly wisdom or with God’s truth.

Then Paul warns us of the inevitable problem that everyone faces as they grow - pride.  He warns us to not deceive ourselves and think that we are wise.  He reminds us that the thoughts of the wise are futile, and that we have nothing to brag about.

Growth leads to humility.

When I began the journey of spiritual growth as a teenager, I looked forward to the day that I would have answers, knowledge, and wisdom.  But it turns out realizing that I will never have all the answers is the biggest proof that I are becoming spiritually mature.

Humility is the mark of spiritually maturity.  Blessed are the meek indeed.

It’s much easier to get excited about the word on a piece of paper, humility, than to experience it.

Summer time has been a huge time of personal spiritual growth for me in the past few years.  I’ve served in ministries out of my comfort zone, did Bible studies that made me think and learn, and saw God move in amazing ways.

When I think back to the lessons I have learned they seem to fall into two categories: either times when God surpassed my expectations, answering prayers overabundantly, beyond what I asked Him or times when I tried hard and God let my efforts fail.

Honestly, this summer has felt a lot of failed efforts.  Thursday I’ll post Part 2 with some specific examples.

Because I’ve had steady doses of humble pie this summer, I’m taking encouragement from this passage in James.  I am growing.  I’m learning that ever important lesson of humility.  God is showing me that growth doesn’t end.  I’m never going to graduate spiritual growth school, not in this life anyway.

Growth is ongoing.

You have the ability to plateau your spiritual growth at any moment.  Because growth requires action on your part, it is possible to not act.  But you also have the ability to be open to growth by building on your foundation of grace.  But don’t miss this fact - every bit of growth comes from God.

Growth is a gift from God.

And that fact leads us back to humility.  What can I brag about if I cannot achieve any growth on my own?

That green bead is important, not in explaining salvation, but in explaining our life as a Christian.

Growth is important, and here’s the key to knowing you are growing, what it looks like and when it is done right - humility.


I like to post a song with each blog post because it's fun.  This is a near perfect folk song right here.  Enjoy.