Friday, August 5, 2011

God Does Not Share His Glory With Another

Have you heard Natalie Grant's new song? "Who is that", you say? Only one of the most prolific Christian song artists and activists of our time! Anyway, her new song "The Greatness of Our God" has a prophetic message for God's church in our day. Here are the Lyrics:

Give me eyes to see the more of who you are.
May what I behold
still my anxious heart.
Take what I have known and break it all apart.
For you my God... are greater still.

And no sky contains no doubt restrains all you are the greatness of our God!
I'll spend my life to know
and I'm far from close to all
you are the greatness of our God.

Give me grace to see beyond this moment here.
To believe that there is nothing left to fear.
That you alone are high above it all.
And you my God are greater still...

And no sky contains no doubt restrains all you are the greatness of our God!
I'll spend my life to know
and I'm far from close to all
you are the greatness of our God.

And there is nothing that could ever separate us,
no there is nothing that could ever separate us from your love.
No life, no death,
of this I am convinced,
you my God are greater still..

And no words could say,
or song convey all you are the greatness of our God I'll spend my life to know
and I'm far from close to all you are the greatness of our God

And no sky contains no doubt restrains all you are the greatness of our God!
I'll spend my life to know
and I'm far from close to all
you are the greatness of our God

Nice, right? I had heard this song many times and never really heard it until the other day. I had bought a new compilation CD with this song on it and I was excited to hear Natalie's new song. I've been such a big fan since I saw her in person at a Women of Faith Conference in Minnesota quite a few years ago. She has such a heart for women and for bringing God's message to His people. But I listened the first time and kind of shrugged it off. I thought, "That wasn't all that great." My next thought was, "Why don't I hear the message in this? The words are there but the message is hidden from me." I shrugged it off and let it go and went on with my life, my rat race. But that's just it! It's my life! Mine! And no one I know has fought harder than I have to have a life.

This story began back in 2000. "My" life was a train wreck. I was facing an unwanted divorce. I was losing my house. I had a career that was not going anywhere. My family and I had no kind of relationship. I had no friends. I was alone and miserable. I was suffering so severly because I knew I had chosen this path and here I was. At some point I had forgotten that truth I realized as a small girl that I wanted to live FOR Jesus. Meaning it was no longer "my" life but "His" life to work through to accomplish "His" goals. This life I had was all I could do in my strength. Destruction. I had given my life to Jesus as a little girl and He had taken that seriously and I had not. I was 25 now. I looked backwards in my mind and all I saw were skeletons and empty spaces. All I heard were the voices of condemnation from all my mistakes. I looked forward in my mind and I could see nothing. My sight was blocked. It all ended if I stayed on this track. I was broken. There was nowhere else to go. I turned back to God and said, "OK! I've tried it all. I've done it all and none of it works! You are the only thing I have not tried." At the time I believed that was true. I had walked the low road of life. I had seen every wretched thing one could see there and done every wretched thing one could do there. Atleast I thought. But God knew I had never walked the clean life, the "normal" life path yet. There would be many more areas of pride to uncover. Many more temptations to be offered to my heart throught this other world. First, "She learns". God chose to reveal His grace to me and I was changed, sold out to Him. I told Him that my life was His for the using. I would go where He wanted me to go and say what He wanted me to say. I told Him I would no longer speak apart from His will. I wanted Him to be woven into the very fabric of who I was becoming so that I could begin to see life again. The next five years of my life were an amazing time with the Holy Spirit teaching and leading. Near the end of that time I met my current husband. We decided to get married and a new life sprang up in my prepared garden soil. I thought we would go on happily, hands swinging singing worship songs togethor and then go into ministry. We would have children and it would be a peice of cake and I was strong enough to never be really tempted again. We would continue in ministry and personal healing without resistance or roadblocks and then our children would grow up and become great people of God and we would sail of into the retirement community content and full. Well, that really was my plan. Unspoken ofcourse. That was my expectation of God. Remember back when I had given my life to Christ and told Him He could do with it what He so chose? What had I done? Had I only dreamed of surrendering my life to Him so that He could fill my time till something better came along? In my ignorance for whatever my motivation I began to have a plan that was mine again. It started with an appetite. One that I was not willing to acknowledge to myself or anyone else. It layed in wait deep in the recesses of my heart for the right moment to strike and then when I was in the right situation it began to seductively creep, inch and slither its way to the surface. It was smart. It's name was "Pride". It's desire for being on top, being in control, being recognized and being wanted was insatiable. It began with a thought which felt good that rooted itself in an attitude. Then it was attitude that took form in my beliefs. My beliefs began to come out in words. Those words had to be justified by behaviors and my behaviors, well they lead to a new thought. With each thought cycle over and over, deeper and deeper I waided out into the river of me and soon I was no longer touching bottum. I had gone to far from the righteous realization that my life, my heart, my thoughts, my attitudes, my gifts or abilities all were given to me in order to be on mission with God in my world. It was to be used to bring people to Jesus not serve my wicked lust for acknowledgement or to feel like, "yah, I am awesome at this!" Soon years had passed. I woke up one day and looked back over my again miserable existance. I saw the years of struggle in my marriage and with my small children. I saw the clammering to get to the top in my career. I saw the accusations I had said to God about why I was not where I wanted to be in my life, why nothing was ever enough for me. I had not heard Him speak to me in so long and my heart was desperate to hear from Him once again. I saw what I had done in my pursuit to "get a life". I heard Him begin to whisper to come back to Him. He said, come to me. Read my book. Pray to Me. I will meet with you." So I went and bought a Bible study. I was intent when I went to the store I would buy nothing unless I felt the witness of the Holy Spirit. In my private time I had been begging God to show me my purpose again. I could not see the future as it had been in my past. I was in a very scary place. My attention was drawn to a study named "Called and Accountable" by Henry Blackaby. This was the one. I went home and began it the next morning. I was confronted with the question, "Do you think God wants to use your life to accomplish His purposes?" YES! YES! YES! Ofcourse I wanted to believe that. And of course He does. And then this, "However, there are times when God looks for someone to use, but does not find anyone who is willing or living in a way that God could trust them with His work." The finger of guilt was pointed right at me. I knew my secret sin. I knew what I was after. Why would God trust me with His thing when I always tried to make it mine? Then I was confronted with the scripture of God calling Ezekiel as a "watchman" for His people. "Maybe you are recognizing that you have not been a faithful watchperson where God has placed you. Stop and spend time asking God to forgive you and release your life to be used by Him for His purposes today." This was it. The heart of the matter. God had stopped me at every turn. Everything I tried came to nothing in its end. I had a purse with a gaping hole in the bottum. I had committed my life to Him and ministry all those years ago and here I was entrenched in the "cares of this world". It was all mine now. My plans, my money, my kids, my husband, my church, my gifts, my knowledge. I mouthed the words that God did this and God did that and God in His mercy did do things and accomplish things in, through and around me but I accomplished a lot too on my own and I took the credit in my heart for most of what I saw Him do. And honestly in panic and self reliance I made choices of where to live and where to work and when to do things and when to not based on my own discretion. I'd "pray" but really I intended to do what would make me feel the best. What I was the most comfortable with. I didn't really want to hear what God wanted because that may not even be in my decision pool. I wanted God to release me to serve Him again but He wanted me to know that I would be serving Him not serving me and that meant me not having some set agenda for the rest of my life. At this I was broken. I wept and felt exposed. God saw me and I felt loved not rejected. He was big again and I was so small. I was put back in my place and that's where I wanted to be all along.

You see, God will not share His glory with anyone. We Christians think that we really have God fooled because we think we really have the world fooled. No one is fooled by our pretentious lives. We go where they go. We are entertained by what they are entertained by. We set goals how the world tells us to. We get degrees in areas we think will make money or be sufficient for a lifetime. We run our churches the way they run their businesses. We listen to their music in our "ministries". We change our names because it will be more appetizing to the world. We create processes that are so similar to the world's processes that going into a Christian clinic can feel like going to any average medical clinic. We even treat one another like the world treats each other. The Bible says "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”(John 13:35) We compromise! And we do it because at some point we are tempted away in our hearts with something the world has that we have wanted or thought all along. Something that we have never brought under submission to Jesus and His call to serve him with our lives. I am not preaching being some fanatical, cave dwelling anarchist. I am saying that we, I , all of us follow our own way. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."(Prov 16:25) By death does the author mean actual heart stopping, no pulse, brain dead death? Maybe, but I think that it would be more sufficiently explained by saying a spiritual death. Maybe it's a life that was once impassioned and now only duty. Maybe it's a ministry that once was doing the real work of changing lives and now has the reputation of what once was and is just keeping people coming back so everyone keeps their jobs. Maybe it is a relationship with Christ that was once alive and active and now is swept into a corner and feels like a burden. Maybe it is a person who couldn't believe that God really meant He was going to send them into ministry and waiting meant they were being a fool for their belief so they chucked that and went to work for just some place and forgot God's call. "Death" is the storyline WE write that is specific to our life. But it always leaves us with the same realization that we are going our own way and we were created for something greater and purer and something that has eternal significance. God is writing a story and if we want to be part of it we must not try to take the pen from the writer's hand. We are on mission with Him in our world. His mission. His plan. His call.

An illustration from "Called and Accountable". This man's name was John. He was a "personal bodyguard for a member of a high profile family in Texas. Ealier in John's life he had sensed a call to missions and ministry, but through the years he had wandered away from God and was not serving as God intended. Through circumstances out of John's control, he was falsely accused of some things and demoted to sitting in a guard shack outside of one of the family's homes. During this time he had the option to become angry, but instead he looked to God for understanding. God assured John that the call to be on mission had not changed after all the wasted years. John released his life to the Lord and renewed his comitment to the call. Within a short time a ministry contacted John to serve by working with boys and men. Today, John travels the country working with churches, calling men back to their relationship with God. To talk to him is to hear a heart that loves to serve the lord and help men and boys. To look over his life is to see that God had never released him from the call and was working in his life to cause him to will and want to follow God's claim on his life."(pg53)

If you have written the first few chapters of your story, stop and let God tell you the rest. Let Him lead you. Obey His voice. Wait on Him. Wait. Don't compromise any longer. Search your heart, your beliefs and your values. Acknowledge where you are at today. Let Him refresh you and restore you to Himself and then follow Him. Let Him finish the story. Let Him be the hero in your story. God will not share His glory with another.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Have you ever lost your purpose? "What kind of question is that", you ask. Well, have you ever woke up some morning and wondered what you were doing with your life or where you were suppose to be going with it? I have. I mean, I have been there. This is a very scary and insecure feeling. It's like I could not seem to grasp anything real meaningful. I lost perspective. The perspective of passion and zealous conviction. Even if I would go and serve in a meaningful role helping a hurting person or counseling, still I found no pleasure in it. My purpose had been stolen by the pain of betrayal, deception and persecution.

Think back in your life. When have you felt the greatest sense of purpose? There were two times in my adult life when I felt a real burden of purpose. When I gave my life to Jesus at 25, I felt I must share with anyone who would listen of the freedom I had received in Christ. When I was 33, The Lord called me into service to those who have lived the same traumatic experiences I have lived. Everyday I would wake with an excitement in the pit of my gut because I knew that in that day God was going to do something great in my life. He did. Whether it was in prayer time, a phone call, a client in office or a community connection Jesus, was very material in my life. The original sense of purpose in my Christian faith has not wained. Oh, I have gotten distracted at times by jobs and kids and husband. Ok, and money a time or two but never has the flame of love and desire to preach the gospel ever burned out in my heart. The purpose to help trauma victims did however. Sad. I mean, it is sad how when the Lord calls us to something great there will always be an attack launched against us in order to stop us from bringing the message of freedom to others.

When the attack starts we are in that "googoo eyed" state with Jesus. He called me so I can take whatever the enemy dishes out, right? Have you ever been in an attack that went on for a long, long time? You finnally start to realize that you are getting wore down and tired and you need a break in the battle or to win the battle or you are going to just quit. Well that was me. It was literally a reliving of the story of Nehemiah when he was trying to get the people of Israel to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. They had resistance from within and resistance from without and the people were complaining and quarreling and were afraid. Nehemiah finnally told the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.' Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon."(Nehemiah 4:14-17) With one hand so-to-speak I worked with my clients, my community and my colleagues. With the other hand so-to-speak I had to try to defend my reputation, my character and my actions from accusation and attack. The work was fulfilling and I could see every day God's work through me in the lives of many hurting children, women and men. The infrastructure in which I had to accomplish this work was steeped in cynicism, selfish agendas, beaurocracy and one barrier after another. I went in expecting that the system would work with someone who really wanted to make a change in people's lives. I believed that everyone who did that kind of work did it out of love and empathy for another fellow sufferer. Not so. I found that people were in my profession for a whole host of reasons and few of which were love, empathy or a desire to help people really find a way to change and heal. Because of this I became disillusioned with the work, the call I received to help those who are wounded. I became disillusioned with a system that I believed in and with groups of people I thought purposed to empower others but in reality were fueled by anger and competition. It is because of this I lost my purpose. I felt that if those who could support me and propel me forward would not then it would be impossible to accomplish my purpose. It was to them business as usual.

In the end I was undone by the anger and competetive spirit. I left with very little. Mostly, what I could carry in my memory and what I had learned from my clients, their cases and educational experiences. I was emotionally battered and torn, but I had been changed as a person. I came there to usher in change for others and they changed me. I now knew what real pain and suffering really were. I now really loved them. Their brokenness did not allow me to keep my self-satisfied image, my neat little portrayal of myself. Their brokenness demanded humanity, understanding, empathy, and for me to be a real person not just a smiling, nodding head. I wanted to lay down my life-my time, my heart, my energy, my resources in order to serve them and comfort them. Now I knew that in order to make a difference in the lives of the broken I must do it God's way not the world's way.

My purpose was to serve those wounded by trauma and help them but they helped me. They helped me to see what God saw not this nice, neet little package that some office professional could serve me. Now my purpose has changed. I thought I would serve those emotionally, physically and spiritually ravaged by abuse and neglect. I thought that if I found some program to work through that I could help people but now I know that healing and recovery come through the redemptive power of Jesus Christ.

What I will do is show the love of God to each and every person who the Lord sends me. I will meet them in their humanity so that they are not alone in their suffering so that they know that God has not forgotten them or rejected them and that there is hope.

"Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor’s provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people. Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people."(Nehemiah 5:18-19.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Love One Another

Love. What is it? Is it a feeling, an act, a perception, an image? In our country (US), "love" as defined by Hollywood is in most images we see that depict our current culture. In doing an image search under the word "love" I found images of hearts and lots of hearts. I found animals mating, women who were naked and in sexualized poses and men and women being intimate. Searching magazine images for "love" was much worse. Image after image of women who appeared to be in the process of masterbation or sexual arrousal. Hollywood love produces images of happy, smiling couples. Which is it? Hearts, mating animals, a masterbating woman or a smiling couple with seemingly no worries? It is none of these!

The word "love" has been used in our pop music to describe a fantasy world where people all just live in harmony with one another. "Love" in music has also been described as: puppy love, a vice/compulsive, keeps us togethor, your smile, thoughts of another, endless, partner's body, will go on & on, a faithful promise, makes a person crazy, a heart breaker, a confession of it, a fantasy, lifting higher, etc. In some rap songs "love" was described as taking a peice of a girl, being lost like a homework excuse, chilling with no makeup on, ecstacy's explosion and making a brother feel like something. A web search for love songs will not bring up songs of faith, responcibility and commitment. It will however bring up every steemy song that has ever been written by an empty, lust struck romantic. Don't get me wrong, sex is a wonderful gift but is sex love? Is our sexualized culture really teaching love? Romance can fill the heart with joy,excitement and anticipation but, is that love?

Young people get married every day in the name of it and then soon we find out they are divorcing. Was that love? What is "love" anyway?

I am brought to this subject because so often I hear people talk about loving someone or showing love to someone and I wonder if they really know what that means. In my own life "love" was first defined in the ways I stated above. I had an idealistic view of what I wanted love to be. I wanted it to meet all my emotional, psychological and sexual needs. Also, I thought love was meant to always feel good and never tell me I am wrong or I need to change. Love should never make me uncomfortable or stretch me. I thought that I should have been able to take whatever I wanted and there should be no bottum to the metaphorical purse. Through my life some people I have met have at some point in the relationship said "I love you". Then the relationship ended. It was at these points I wondered, "If they love me why can't they find a way to communicate? Why won't they find a way to compromise? Why are they valuing their pride more than our relationship?" In the majority of my experiences with broken relationships these questions did not get answered and sometimes I found that it was me who was not communicating, compromising and valuing. This brought me to the place where I began to question what "love" really is and does anyone really know?

If you have read my blog before you will know that I am a Christian. I have not always been faithful to my beliefs as I am now. I share my insights, failures and my journey in order to let you know that I am in the process of development with you. With this said, I discovered the truth about love in the Bible. I had heard scriptures about love on and off growing up so when I began to wonder if anyone knew what love really is I went looking in scripture. Here is what I found.

"And now I [Paul] will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but I have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I posess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8

"...Love your neighbor as yourself." Leviticus 19:18

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your strength." Deuteronomy 6:5

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Mathew 22:36-40

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34

So, we are to love God, others, and self. I began using the Corinthians scripture to measure the love of those around me for me. But I began to feel the conviction that this scripture was to measure where my love for those around me was at. I began to ask myself...Is my love patient? Can I wait with my hands on my lap so-to-speak, like a weaned child? Is it kind? Am I envious? Do I want what I see others have or have I found out what God wants of me? Do I boast? Am I a bragger? Does pride hold me back from showing love to those in my life? Am I able to give a hug to that person who has hurt me? Can I say "I am sorry"? Am I rude or snippy? Am I motivated by what I am going to get and not by what I am going to give? Do I get offended quickly and hold onto it? Do I provoke the people in my life to be better people or am I willing to allow those I love to get caught in vices, habits, bad choices and foolishness? Do I control myself so that I protect those my actions or words could hurt? Do I put people in my life on trial, making them prove everything too me? When I fail do I get back up and keep moving forward or do I lay down and decide to stay miserable and give up? When things get tough at work, at home, with my kids, my friend or in my marriage do I throw up my hands so-to-speak and stop trying or do I perceive these as challenges and opportunities put in my life to help me to grow and become a better person? Have I already given up on someone or something that I know I should not have?

These questions peirced my heart. They still peirce my heart. We are all guilty of not being loving. Love is not just a feeling. I admit that there are different kinds of love such as romantic love, friendship love, and agape love. All these kinds of love do have feelings attached and God meant it that way. He wants us to experience pleasure in every relationship but God also pushes us beyond the feelings to certain actions that will maintain love and fulfill both persons in the relationship. Let me go one step further and say that we can be in "relationship" with those we may come into contact with only once. This may be off-putting to some but is very true. I am not saying that it is the same as any of the relationships I have listed above. Nor am I saying that this "relationship" will share the same characteristics as a romance, a friendship or intimacy with God. It is a relationship born out of the bond of like humanity and shared by the knowledge of God's love for each and every one of His creation and His desire to redeem each and every one of his creation. Through these ideals we are called to "love" each person God brings into our path. How can I show a kindness? I can be patient in line just a little longer so that I do not provoke fear in the clerk. When I don't get what I ordered at the drive through I calmly return it and thank them for exchanging it. When someone in line begins to talk to me I listen and don't turn away or I can offer to pray with them. Each and every person is seeking the evidence that God is in this world. One act of love may be all they need to believe.

What if I have an addict in my family? What if secrecy is the norm? Is it love to allow this person to remain in bondage to drugs, alcohol, shopping,perfectionism, food, gambling, pornography just to keep peace? Let's look to 1 Corinthians definition of love for the answer. It says that "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." In this situation love looks very different than the feel good love of showing a kindness. This love is the tough love that "rejoices with the truth". Often we believe that if our action gives us a "bad" feeling it is the wrong action but in these cases that is incorrect. It is a loving act to speak the truth to someone caught in sin. You may suffer as you watch your loved one suffer. They may lash out at you because of being exposed but what you are doing is right. The Bible says, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ."(Ephesians 4:15) This act of love requires a commitment. A commitment to loving God and His will for you, to yourself being able to receive God's love for you and to your family member in showing God's love to them by realizing their unblemished value before God and working that out in whichever capacity you are called to so that in everything God will be glorified.

What is love and how do we know when we are or are not giving love? It is the totality of our feelings, actions and our commitments that fulfill the 1 Corinthians definition of love. This is a tool, a mighty and powerful tool given to us for discerning truth and direction. Where does the power to love come from? 1John 4:19 states, "We love because He first loved us." Remember, Love One Another.

*Note: This is the recipe for perfect love. We are not perfect and will be on a journey of development until Jesus returns to bring us home. Depend upon Him to enable you to learn how to love and receive His forgiveness when you fall short.