Control Girl to Jesus Girl: Kim

During this twelve week series, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.

Not all of the stories in this series will be shared by video, but I was blessed to have Kim share at our Kregel Parable Release Party. Here’s what Kim said: 

“About twelve years ago, my husband and I were going through a divorce and we separated for two years. After a lot of ugliness and trying to control each other, God got ahold of both of us. He shook around a bit and woke us up, and we decided we were going to follow His plan for marriage. We’ve now been married for close to 22 years. So having been someone who almost lost my marriage, I could really relate with this statement in Control Girl:

My culture may cheer me on when I’m pushy, independent, demanding, and domineering, but when I turn on my heel and bring these attitudes to my marriage or other relationships, I inevitably drive in wedges. The more controlling I get, the less happy we all are. God provides a better way. (Control Girl, p. 51)

“God restores marriages like mine, but what about our culture? And what about women? The first time I read this quote from Shannon’s book, we were in the midst of the presidential election…”

Listen to the rest of Kim’s story here:

Faced with today’s political climate, many women feel the burden to take control. They heap the weight of the world on their shoulders. But Kim says, “God’s plan is bigger and better than anything that’s going on in our world right now.”

She also mentioned timing. God’s timing. She said, “I remember reading those words on page 51 in November and thinking, ‘Wow. Shannon couldn’t have known the timing of this book.'”

It’s true! I fully expected that the book would be published in 2015 instead of 2017. But as Kim said, God’s timing is perfect.

Friend, are you feeling anxious, angry, frustrated, helpless, confused, or stressed out about the future? Perhaps this message is meant for you. Today. I invite you to consider the truth woven throughout Control Girl: God is in control, not us. And when we live accordingly, we find the peace, joy, security, and hope that vying for control never brings.


Are you a Control Girl? (Take the Quiz.) Do you want to be a Jesus Girl? For more informationgo here.

More in the Control Girl to Jesus Girl Series:

  • Elizabeth’s Story

 

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And the Winner Is….

Congratulations to…

Shirley Strait!!!

Shirley, my publicist from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info@litfuse.com.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the giveaway. It was fun. A special thanks to everyone who participated in the blog tour! I so appreciate the time and energy you put into your careful reviews!!! (Read reviews here, or on Amazon here.)

If you didn’t win, and would like to get the book, here are some options for you:

  • Amazon:
  • CBD.com: Currently in stock for $10.99.
  • Barnes & Noble: Currently in stock for $14.99
  • Kregel: My publisher will cover your shipping cost if you use code (CG17) when you call customer service at 800-733-2607.
  • Here. Order from me here. Today only, get $5 off the Combo Pack (which includes our coloring book and a sampler pack of meditation cards), using code: (jesusgirl5).

Control Girl Quiz

Have you taken the Control Girl Quiz yet? Have you invited your friends to take the quiz?

Over 12 weeks, I’ll be unpacking the quiz, question by question. This past Monday was the first post, titled, “Control Girl Quiz: Do you struggle with anger?

Also over the next 12 weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of your stories in a series titled “Control Girl to Jesus Girl”. You can listen to Elizabeth’s story here (most of the stories will be written, but we videoed Elizabeth at our Baker Book House release party.) If you’re interested in sharing your story with me of how the Control Girl message is changing you, I’d love to hear from you! Use the contact form below.

Other Resources

Have you checked out the other resources?

Thanks again for all of your enthusiasm and support on this project. I am so excited about what God has already and will continue to do through this book! Please feel free to contact me using the form below. I’d love to hear from you!

The most important thing, though, isn’t winning prizes or selling books. The most important thing is transformation. We don’t want to be Control Girls forever. Let’s head in a new direction, shall we? Let’s be Jesus Girls!!

Love,

 

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Control Girl Quiz: Do you Struggle with Anger?

If you haven’t yet taking the “Control Girl Quiz“, I invite you to start there. Each Monday, over twelve weeks, I’ll be unpacking one of the quiz’s twelve questions. Also, on Thursdays, I’ll be telling your stories in a “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” series. (Check out Elizabeth’s powerful story here.) If you’re interested in sharing your story, contact me at shannon@shannonpopkin.com.

Today, we’re looking at quiz question 1:

Do you struggle with anger? Do you erupt when something doesn’t go your way? Do you lose your cool over small, insignificant interruptions—either disruptions to your afternoon commute or your life trajectory? Do you inwardly (or outwardly) seethe at people who make your life difficult or who disagree with you—even over small things?

Anger is often an indication that we’re trying to control something which isn’t ours to control. We want our plans to unfold without a hitch. We don’t want anything to disrupt our plans–even small, insignificant plans.

Clutching Tightly

Once when my daughter Lindsay was about eighteen months old, my husband and I watched her become extremely frustrated. She was trying to climb up onto the couch to watch her video, but she insisted on clutching all of her crayons while doing so. I don’t know why it was important to her to hold her crayons while sitting on the couch to watch her video, but apparently she had adopted this goal.

Since they were the big, fat kind of crayons, she could just barely tuck all of them into her hands. But inevitably, whenever she tried to maneuver herself up onto the couch, the crayons would pop out of her grasp and scatter to the ground. Down she would go for another attempt, but it was always the same. As she tried to climb up, the crayons would scatter, and she would become even more frustrated. At one point, she got so angry that she ran over and banged her head on the wall!

Ken and I, who were sitting in the same room (trying not to laugh), were amazed that rather than asking us for help, she completely ignored us. It was only when we slipped a few crayons out of the scattered pile without her seeing, that she was able to complete her goal. She sighed with satisfaction, as she sat with “all” of her crayons clutched in her fists, and watched what was left of her video.

Many times, we’re like Lindsay, stubbornly clutching some ideal in our hands. We get angry because life keeps bumping into us, causing our plans and efforts to scatter. Amazingly, instead of going to our Father for help, we ignore Him and keep trying on our own. We get increasingly frustrated and angry. We might not bang our heads on the wall, but we cause a lot of pain and turmoil–both for ourselves and those around us.

An Indicator

For many years I didn’t realize that I had a problem with control, but I did know I had anger issues. I was exploding or getting bent out of shape over ridiculous little things like my husband not putting the glasses in the cupboard correctly, my kids pulling each other’s hair, and the dog throwing up on the carpeting. And these were only the small things I wanted to control!

When anger bubbles to the surface, it can indicate a deeper, underlying craving for control. So I’ve learned to use my anger as a dashboard indicator of something deeper that is happening in my heart. When I feel the anger rising, I ask, “OK, Shannon. What are you trying to control here?” I’m learning to link the two, and consider that when anger is spewing, it’s often fed by a craving for control.

What I Can Control

Ultimately, I have very little control over how everything turns out. I can’t determine what professions my kids choose, my husband’s level of commitment to God, or whether the dog throws up on the carpeting. And if I try to control these things, anger is the obvious result.

But here’s what I can control: me. Instead of trying to clutch into my hands all of the things that are too big for me, I can turn to my Father with my plans, hopes, and dreams. He invites me to sort out my expectations in His presence, and let Him sift out my unrealistic goals for myself.

When I rehearse the lie that I have to take control and make everything turn out right, I will become angry, frustrated, and create tension wherever I turn. But when I remind myself the truth–that God already is in control, I can find satisfied, resting peace.

 

Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible

Are you concluding that you might be a Control Girl? If so, don’t despair. I have good news for you:

No woman has to be a Control Girl.

Yes, women tend to have a bent toward wanting control, but God offers us another option. Another path. He invites us to a life of surrender. To say, as Jesus did, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

My new book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control From Seven Women in the Bible, is a study of seven Control Girls of the Bible who struggled with control in the same way we do—they pushed for their own agendas, tried to make everything turn out according to their plans, and made everybody miserable in the process.

As we watch God interacting with these Control Girls of the Bible, we gain perspective on our own control struggles. Just like back then, God is in control and we aren’t. He invites us to live accordingly.

Enter the Giveaway

Through TOMORROW, use this link to enter the “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” prize pack giveaway, valued at $100! Here’s what you can enter to win:

Thanks for taking the quiz and entering to win! Let’s go from Control Girl to Jesus Girl, shall we?

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Control Girl to Jesus Girl: Elizabeth

During this twelve week series, I’m sharing stories of women who are on the path from Control Girl to Jesus Girl. Like me, these women would not say that they’ve arrived. They can’t claim to be perfectly Christ-like. But they are heading in a new direction.

Not all of the stories in this series will be shared by video, but I was blessed to have Elizabeth share at the Kregel Parable Release Party. Though her emotions were raw, and she claims that speaking is not “her thing” (I disagree), she has given me permission to share this publicly.

Here’s Elizabeth’s story about how perfectionism ruined her peace and stole her joy: 

“Control only temporarily soothed my anxiety. I strived to be this perfect juggler-always keeping every ball in the air. When one would drop–which it always did–my anxiety over what people would think and over how I felt about my perceived weaknesses only compounded my guilt and my shame.

I worked harder to quickly grabl that ball that I dropped and throw it back into my routine, and I believed that this was my role–as a mother, social worker, daughter, wife… Yet while I was busy controlling the show to ensure a flawless routine, my fear of judgment and my ridiculous expectations of self led to something very different behind the curtain. My family no longer wanted to be part of the show…”

Listen to the rest here:

Friend, are you a Control Girl? (Take the Quiz.) Do you want to be a Jesus Girl?

Do you find yourself, like Elizabeth, in a lonely, painful, vulnearable place, trembling under the weight of your own fear of judgment and ridiculous expectations for yourself? Perhaps the Lord is saying to you (as He did to Elizabeth), “Now? Now, will you trust me?”

Your Father invites you to lay down your burden of perfectionism, and find the peace, security, and hope that come–not from taking up control, but from laying it down.


For more information on Control Girl, go here.

More in the Control Girl to Jesus Girl Series:

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Sharing my Book on Maranda’s “Where You Live” TV Show

It was so fun to be on the WOTV4Women program, “Where you Live” with Maranda yesterday! I’m thrilled with the opportunity I had to share about my book with my community, and wanted to share the experience with you!

Thanks, Maranda! Thanks Wood TV 8!!

Also, many, many thanks to all of the women, both in Grand Rapids, and nation wide, who have been opening their hearts to the message of “Control Girl”. For more information on the book, go to www.ControlGirl.com.

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A “Birth Announcement” for my Book!

It’s here! It got to hold my book in my hands for the first time this week!

It feels like an eternity ago, when I first announced my book’s “due date” to you, as I compared writing a book to having a baby. And now, as I held my brand new book, I felt a bit like a new mom, counting all of the fingers and toes! I checked the back cover… I looked at the spine… I took a ridiculous number of pictures and shared them on Instagram…. I held my book lovingly and felt its weight in my hands…

What a labor of love this book has been, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Here’s a facebook video of me, sharing a little about the book:

 

I’d love for you to consider Control Girl, either for yourself or your group. We have lots of free resources, including a FREE Discussion Guide, for you at ControlGirl.com. (Use the dropdown box under “Control Girl”.)

If you’d like to help me spread the word about the book, here are some things you could do:

  • Share the video or this link with a friend!
  • Share this post, or a link to the book on social media or via email! You could say, “I’m interested in this book and thought you might be, too.”
  • Pass information about the book to your women’s ministry director. Please let her know I’d be happy to answer questions, or help in any way I can!
  • Invite me to speak at your church or your group. I’d love to share the message of Control Girl with your group!
  • Pray! God is ultimately in control of how far and wide this book goes, and He loves it when we pray for Him to move!

My ultimate hope, as I write and speak on the topic of control, is for women to be taken with Jesus. I long for us to be enticed with the sweetness of surrender (rather than bound by the futility and frustration of trying to control everything)! My passion is for us to go from Control Girls to Jesus Girls.

God is in control! That means we don’t have to be. Isn’t that good news???

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Control Girl

Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes & Noble. (Of these three, the only one that has the book in stock is Barnes & Noble, listed at $9.85–which is also the lowest price right now.) It released on January 27, 2017.

Little fights with your husband and kids. Unhappiness when things don’t match your version of perfect. Tension, anger, fear, anxiety–it all begins with a heart that craves control. When your perspective of how life should go replaces God’s, you doom your quest for security, peace, and joy before it even starts.

Thankfully, there is a better way.

Join Shannon as she shares what she has discovered about her own control struggles and about God from studying seven Control Girls in the Bible. Whether it was Eve’s desire to know instead of trust, Sarah’s inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah’s controlling hand on her family’s future, each of these women’s stories contain warnings and lessons for us today.

Learn how you too can lay down this burden of trying to control everything and find rest in surrendering to the One who truly is in control.


How the Book is Arranged

This book is designed the book to work well, both for the individual, and for groups. (See a note to leaders.) Control Girl divides each chapter into “lessons”, which allow the reader on a time budget to engage a complete train of thought as she reads the chapters part-by-part. Each lesson begins with a correlating Bible passage, and ends with several application questions along with one truth from the lesson to meditate on. (Download FREE meditation cards here.)

There are nine chapters in the book:

  • 1 Path of a Control Girl
  • 2 Eve: It Looked Good to Me
  • 3 Sarah: It’s Up to Me
  • 4 Hagar: Out from Under Her Control
  • 5 Rebekah: Standing in for God
  • 6 Leah: Invisible and Unloved
  • 7 Rachel: When She Has More
  • 8 Miriam: Taking the Lead
  • 9 Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Resources

Group Discussion Guide for Leaders

Leaders, thanks so much for considering this book for your group’s study! Please consider downloading the FREE Discussion Guide  which will help draw your women into meaningful discussion centered on God’s Word, as you work through the book together.

You might want to consider making this a ten week study (with one week of introduction) or a nine week study if your group needs no introductory week.


Reflections On Surrender

Reflections on Surrender (just released Dec. 2016!) is an adult coloring book, filled with truth about control, ourselves, and God–messages that closely correlate with Control Girl. While you don’t have to work through the Bible study to enjoy the coloring book, the two do compliment each other nicely.

The original artwork in Reflections on Surrender was done by  Janyre Tromp
(who, by the way, was also the editor for Control Girl). We hope that as you add color and design to the artwork, you’ll also soak your heart in the truth on each page.


Let Shannon Help You with Kick-off!

West Michigan groups, Shannon would love to come help kick off your study, or come for a Q&A, sometime. Long distance groups, Shannon is happy to consider coming to speak for your group, or using Skype or Facebook Live to connect live. (More speaking info here).

Shannon’s Control Girl Retreat is also a great way to kick off the study for your group. (Your group would pick up the study at Chapter 2 after the retreat.). Please connect with her if you’re interested in any of these options. You can either email her directly at   shannon@shannonpopkin.com or using the comment form below.


Meditation Cards

At the end of each lesson in the book is a “for meditation” section. Our hope in providing these truths and verses, is to help women build a bridge between what they say is true (God is in control) and how they actually live (as though they have to control everything).

But we want to make it easier yet! By using eaither the “Control Girl” tab at the top of this page, or clicking here, please find a set of  FREE downloadable meditation cards, arranged by lesson (sampler pack available now). You can print these as 4×6 cards or photos, or you can share and save them digitally–all for free!

Also on this page are some guidance and ideas for how to use the cards.


 2 x 4 Inch Labels

In the introduction for the book, Shannon suggests keeping a journal of your personal responses to the application questions at the end of each lesson.

Just for fun, here are some labels that you can print off for the cover of your group’s journals (or feel free to use them however you like!). 

Here’s a pdf that will work for Avery (or off brand) 2 x 4 inch labels, 10 per page:

2 x 4 Inch Labels Control Girl to Jesus Girl 2

(Or save the jpg above to print a single label).

 

 


Thank You!

Dear Friends,

Thanks for considering Control Girlalong with our various other companion resources. My hope and desire is that each of us might leave behind the weak-hearted, selfish ways of the Control Girl, and little-by-little, become Jesus Girls instead.

Warmly,

For release information about the book and occasional updates from Shannon–along with subscriber-only freebies and giveaways, sign up here:



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The Clean Sweep of Gospel Confession

I’m thankful for the chance to be one of the bloggers at TrueWoman.com, which is where this post first appeared

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There’s a story from my college days that I’ve been notorious for. It goes like this: One day at the mall, I noticed a guy walking beside me, wearing a Michigan sweatshirt. Since I’m from Michigan and went to school in Virginia, I always enjoyed meeting people from my home state. So I said, “Are you from Michigan?”

He said, “Uh . . . yup.”

“Really? Me, too!” I said with enough enthusiasm to make up for his lack. “Which part of Michigan?”

He said, “Uh . . . Grand Rapids.”

And I said, “Really? Me, too!

Suddenly it dawned on me that I was not in Virginia, connecting with a fellow Michigander. It was Christmas break, and I was home. I was in Grand Rapids.

Quickly, I turned on my heel and walked the other direction, leaving Mr. Michigan sweatshirt, no doubt, muttering, “The things a girl will do to strike up a conversation.”

It was a great story. Everyone loved it. Wherever I went, people would say, “Have you guys ever heard Shannon’s Michigan sweatshirt story? You’ve got to hear it.” And I would tell it again. There was just one problem: The story wasn’t true. It never happened.

It almost happened. I really was in the mall, walking next to a guy wearing a Michigan sweatshirt. And I did momentarily forget that I was in Michigan. And I did almost ask, “Are you from Michigan?” But I caught myself, then chuckled over how funny it would have been if I had actually asked that.

That night, when I was with a group of friends, I told the story as if it had happened. It was funnier that way. And so the lie began.

I don’t recall when I started regretting the story, but I do remember cringing when someone told it at our wedding. And I remember feeling sick when my new husband and I promised to never keep anything from each other. There were a number of occasions when I laid awake, feeling so guilty after having told the story to yet another group of friends. I even tried to convince myself that it was true. It could have been true. It felt true! But of course, it wasn’t.

It certainly wasn’t the only lie I’ve ever told or the only story I’ve embellished (especially as a child!). But because I had lied so publicly and so repeatedly, I felt a deep sense of shame. It was my secret, and I hated it.

Coming Clean

Last summer, on our way to church, my husband and I were talking to our kids about integrity. Someone had stretched the truth, and there were consequences. Trying to stress the gravity, I said, “Kids, lying is a difficult habit to break. If you tell a lie, the best thing to do is confess it right away, and be free of it.” As I said this, God brought the familiar pang of conviction over my sweatshirt story. But this time, I decided to do what I was urging my children to and come clean.

There in our van, I confessed my secret. My kids had grown up hearing the story, but I now revealed the truth. I spoke the confession that had been corked up in my heart for so long and then let the tears spill.

Afterward, my husband reached over to squeeze my hand. There was compassion in his voice when he said, “It’s okay, honey. You didn’t have to worry about telling me. I forgive you.” Then he led our kids in prayer, thanking God for my confession, and asking Him to help us all to tell the truth—especially after we’ve first told a lie.

Three Lessons on Sin

In retrospect, I notice three lessons about sin, tucked into my experience with the sweatshirt story.

1. Sin entraps.

I never intended for the story to go as far and wide as it did. I thought I would share some humor with a few friends, then move on with no consequence. But that little story grew into something ugly that followed me for twenty-five years. It was a sin I didn’t want to continue participating in, yet I felt trapped. And what was holding me hostage? Shame.

2. Shame magnifies.

After confessing my sin of lying, I realized how silly it was that I never did so before. I had been so ashamed of what people would think or say if I told the truth. Yes, lying—like all sin—is serious and wrong. And yes, embellishing can quickly turn into counterfeiting, fraud, or perjury, so it’s best to take our sin very seriously. But shame doesn’t help us rid ourselves of sin. Instead, shame inflates sin—making it bigger and bigger in our minds. The only thing that can puncture our shame and set us free is the needle of confession.

3. Confession frees.

I was surprised by how freeing it was to confess my sin to my family that day in the car. Why had I held on to my façade for so long? It makes no sense, really. By claiming to be a Christian, I’ve already exposed myself. I’ve let the world know that my heart was so wicked, it took the slaughter of Jesus to clear my guilt. In his book Tempted and Tried, Russell Moore puts it this way: “I am crucified with Christ. My corpse is hanging in the sun, publicly marking me as a sinner, worthy of death. Why then, would I try to cover the fact that I’m a sinner?” (p. 174).

Shame bullies me into hiding my sin, but Jesus invites me to swing wide the door of confession and let the light of the gospel in to sweep my heart clean of sin. When I confess my sin, I simply restate what I’ve already said is true: I am a sinner, saved by grace.

Friend, don’t be entrapped by some longstanding habit or past sin. Don’t let shame hold you hostage. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” Won’t you let the light of the gospel sweep your heart clean today?

What sin have you kept covered? How can you puncture your shame by confessing your sin? To prepare your heart for confession, draw a picture of the cross, with your hidden sins written in big letters on it. Remind yourself that Jesus has already cleared you of guilt.

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When Dad says, “Sure,” and Mom says, “No way!”

400x400 When Dad Says Sure

This was first published on the Dove Parenting Blog (minus the faith perspective, which I will include here.)

When our son was in elementary school, I walked down to the basement to find him snuggled on the couch next to Daddy, watching a war movie. “What are you doing?” I asked my husband in exasperated tones, “He’ll have nightmares for weeks!”

My husband disagreed. Since it was a Civil War movie, he argued that kids our son’s age were there, watching the battles in their own communities. Snatching the remote from my husband’s hand, I said, “Well, if we had a war in our town, I’d be focused on protecting our kids; not entertaining them with it!”

Ten years later, my perspective on little kids’ watching war movies has not changed, but my perspective on parenting has.

In many marriages, one parent is more protective than the other. That happens to be me, in ours. And even though our kids are now teens, this hasn’t changed. My husband is still the one who shrugs and says, “Sure,” when the kids want to go running after dark or drive long distances alone. And I’m still the one who says, “No way!”—especially when it comes to questionable entertainment.

As two parents, who completely disagree on what our kids should be allowed to do, how can we operate as a united force? And as two Christians, trying to build a godly home, how can we embrace our roles as husband (loving leader) and wife (submissive helper) when we disagree?

Here are three guidelines that help me, when I disagree with my husband on parenting choices:

1.     It’s okay that we disagree.

Two parents who both love the same set of kids can provide a checks and balance system to parenting. We’re probably both more right together than we are on our own. So it’s okay that we disagree, as long as we’re willing to work toward a decision that we mutually agree upon.

If couples never disagreed, we would need no instruction for wives to submit and husbands to lead. (Eph. 5:22-23) There is no sin in disagreeing, or seeing things differently. The sin comes when we neglect our roles; when a wife insists on bullheadedly taking control, or when a husband deflects his responsibility to protect his family with good decisions.

Disagreements should be expected, especially in parenting. It’s our response to disagreements that is key. Will we selfishly insist on our own perspective? Or will we operate as partners, and help each other grow?

2.     Welcome my marriage partner’s input.

I meet many wives who complain that their husbands are too passive. But often times, these same wives are the ones who admit that they have control issues. When a wife marches in and clicks off the TV in the middle of whatever movie Dad just rented for the kids, it doesn’t invite his future input. And when a husband brushes off his wife’s concerns and takes his teens to see the rated R movie she was protesting, it doesn’t invite her input, either.

Husbands and wives, we are better together. If our kids are blessed with two capable, loving parents, this is to their advantage! We should invite input, rather than veto each other without discussion.

3.     Be respectful.

Without respect, a parenting discussion (which should happen privately, by the way)  is sure to go sideways—especially over something as emotionally charged as protecting our kids. Respect is displayed through tone of voice, letting the other person finish a thought, and truly listening. (Not snatching the remote and saying, “No way!”)

Validate that your spouse loves your kids as much as you do. Admit that you might be too lenient or too protective. Talk about how to compromise, and pray together for wisdom. Then respect your spouse enough to stick with whatever you agreed upon.

We probably won’t get every decision right, as parents. But we’ll do a far better job of parenting in a balanced, thoughtful way if we do it with a partner. God designed it to work that way.

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Are You Scoffing or Celebrating?

What Does My Godliness Celebrate- Back when my kids were much younger and still rode places with me, I asked them a question one day. We were driving down a long road, and the car was quiet, and so I said, “Guys, What is the thing you most love to think about when it’s quiet? Where does your mind drift? What are you hoping you’ll get more time with when your work is done? What is that thing that you crave–that you think will make you most happy?”

Cade, who was six, started to give his answer out loud, but I said, “No, no. Just think about it in your mind.”

Glancing at them through the rear view mirror, I imagined them trying to decide between video games, legos, and movies. I let the quiet linger in the car, but then I released the clincher.

“Ok, do you have your answer? Have you decided what you love most?” I said. “Was your answer God? Because He says that we should love Him most. If your answer was something else, God says that is wrong. He calls that other thing an idol. Anything we love more than God is an idol.”

I had a sense of satisfaction. I had buried them under a thick layer of conviction. I just knew it.

Cade said, “But, wait. My thing that I picked was…. Daddy.”

Bless his sweet little heart. I presumed he was dreaming of Lego knights and Mario Bros! But as a son, Cade knew that it couldn’t be wrong to want more time with his Daddy.

A Pharisee’s Heart

In Luke 5:27-35 some Pharisees show up at a party. Levi has just left his tax collecting business and plans to follow Jesus now. So he has invited all of his friends, and made Jesus the guest of honor. He did not, however, invite the Pharisees.

Jesus went out to respond to directly respond to the Pharisees, who were grumbling about Jesus dipping his hand in the same bowl with these nasty sinners. But Jesus said, “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, for I have come to call sinners to repentance.”

The Pharisees scoffed at this. They said, “It doesn’t look like repentance happening in there! When John the Baptist called for repentance, his disciples fasted and prayed. Your followers are in there partying!”

But Jesus said, “Why would they not be? I’m here!”

Levi had just left a sinful way of making money. He felt more free than ever before. He was excited about Jesus. So he threw a party! And Jesus showed up, not to make some sinful people feel less judged. He showed up because Levi’s new faith was worth celebrating!

But the Pharisees didn’t think so. According to them, Jesus should have declined the party invitation. Why? Sinners were there. Never mind that one of these sinners had become a Jesus follower. Never mind that Jesus was the guest of honor. The Pharisees had turned godliness into a list of things you didn’t do and people you didn’t associate with, rather than a relationship worth celebrating.

What am I celebrating?

Sadly, this is often the mistake I slip into. Like that day in the car. I was interested in showing my kids what they shouldn’t do, shouldn’t love, and shouldn’t think of as an answer to my question. But had I invited them to celebrate anything? Christians are the ones who should be celebrating! We are healed of our sin disease. We are free–both of any coming consequences and it’s current bondage!

Yes, there is a place for fasting. Fasting helps us clear away the cravings for sin, which should not be celebrated. It helps us focus on our Lord and look forward to the day that we will enjoy a celebration in honor of all He has done! But as Christians, we have much to celebrate. One day, we will dip our hand into the same bowl as God, Himself. We are friends of God. Our relationship with Him satisfies our every craving.

What better picture of this than a little boy dreaming of more time with his Daddy? Longing to spend more time with him and knowing that nothing will make him more happy? That’s how Levi felt about Jesus. He would have given up anything just to be with the Lord. He had quit his job! And not because he felt convicted by a command to put God first and have no idols. Levi left everything behind because he wanted to follow Jesus more. And now he was celebrating his decision! He was celebrating his new relationship with Jesus.

So that day in the car, after I delivered the clincher to my children, it was I who was convicted. God, keep me from having the heart of a Pharisee–always deducing godliness to a list of things not to do. Help me to be like a child, just craving more time with you; celebrating that I am your friend; amazed that my sin disease has been healed. You are my guest of honor, dear Jesus. May I always live in celebration of You!

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