Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Did God Wire You to Relate to Him?

‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, thus you shall say to your masters, “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.” —Jeremiah 27:4-6 (NASB)

After an hours long conversation with an individual, I hung up the phone exhausted. The next morning I woke up and thought, I never care to engage a theological discussion like that again. Why did that exchange about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit leave me feeling down?

I’d been open, vulnerable and passionate about how I relate to God and how God connects with me: But it wasn’t the same way the person on the other end of the line focused on God. I felt pulled to share those same experiences or I would not be deemed "spiritual enough."

We are both Christians. We both love the Lord. We both agreed on the truths of the theology under discussion. I recognized that person is a godly individual. This individual’s particular spiritual experiences differed from how I worship God, call on him, and focus on his qualities. I felt theologically unequally yoked. After that conversation I experienced an epiphany regarding how God wired me to relate to him and hear from the Holy Spirit.

Wired to Worship
How do I relate to God? For me deepening my relationship and trust in the Lord comes from spending hours in His Word, digging into Hebrew and Greek definitions, researching key words, and worshipping by proclaiming what God says he will do. I’m humbled and amazed by who God says He is. For a number of years I’ve collected the Hebrew names of God and how each name reveals another attribute of God. When I’m hurting, struggling or doubting, I review my list of over 150 names and pray, “God, which attribute will minister to my heart?

Then I pray for that particular characteristic to minister to the distraction warring in my soul. When others share a new insight they discover about the Lord, their new “aha” spiritual revelation enriches my understanding, strengthening my faith.

While studying Precept Ministries’ Sermon on the Mount, some of verses quoting God caught my eye. God said, “I will . . .” sending me on a search throughout the Bible.

When we draw near to the Lord our God, what does he say he will do for those who love and trust him?

I will show you.
And I will bless you.
I will establish My covenant between Me and you.
I will return to you.
I will tell you.
I will not leave you.
I will be with you.
I will prosper you.
I will teach you what you are to do.
I will deliver you.
I will redeem you.
I will take you for my people.
I will be your God.
I will surely hear your cry.
I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
I will speak to you.
I will meet with you.
I will dwell among you.
I will send an angel before you and I will drive out your enemies.
I will give you rest.
I will show compassion.
I will perform miracles.
I will confirm My covenant with you.
I will make my dwelling among you.
I will not reject you.
I will not fail you or forsake you.
I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always.
I will show you what you shall do.
I will make you a great name.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me.
I will heal you.
I will subdue all your enemies.
I will deliver you.
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
I will answer you.
I will be with you in trouble.
I will rescue you.
I will satisfy you with a long life and let you see My salvation.
I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
I will help you.
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You.
I will lead the blind by a way you do not know. In paths you do not know I will guide you. I will make darkness into light before you and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave you undone.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.
I will do something new, now it will spring forth. Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
I will not remember your sins.
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring.
I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.
I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I will make all your ways smooth.
I will carry you.
I will bear you and I will deliver you.
I will act.
I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
I will keep you.
I will not forget you.
I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons.
I will have compassion on you.
I will not be angry with you.
I will lead you and restore comfort to you.
I will act on behalf of you.
I will answer before you call.
I will hear while you are still speaking.
I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious.
I will heal your faithlessness.
I will pardon you.
I will be your God, if you obey My voice.
I will again have compassion on you; and I will bring you back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land.
I will give you lasting peace.
I will restore you.
I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked.
I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.
I will announce My words to you.
I will set My eyes on you for good.
I will build you up and not overthrow you.
I will plant you and not pluck you up.
I will give you a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and you will be My people, and I will be your God, for you will return to Me with your whole heart.
I will do you no harm.
I will bring you back and restore you.
I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you.
I will listen to you.
I will restore your fortunes.
I will save you from afar and your offspring from the land of your captivity.
I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds, because they have called you an outcast.
I will punish all your oppressors.
I will be the God of all the families.
I will build you and you will be rebuilt.
I will lead you; I will make you walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which you will not stumble; for I am a father.
I will turn your mourning into joy and will comfort you and give you joy for your sorrow.
I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people will be satisfied with My goodness.
I will surely have mercy on you.
I will watch over you.
I will put My law within you and on your heart I will write it; and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.
I will forgive your iniquity, and your sin I will remember no more.
I will give you one heart and one way, that you may fear Me always, for your own good and for the good of your children after you.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you that I will not turn away from you, to do you good; and I will put the fear of Me in your hearts so that you will not turn away from Me.
I will rejoice over you to do you good.
I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know if you call to me.
I will heal you; and I will reveal to you an abundance of peace and truth.
I will cleanse you from all your iniquity by which you have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all your iniquities by which you have sinned against Me and by which you have transgressed against Me.
I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken.
I will restore your fortunes and will have mercy on you.
I will forgive your iniquity and your sin.
I will certainly rescue you.
I will look after you.
Leave your orphans behind, I will keep you alive. And let your widows trust in Me.
I will speak to you and listen closely.
I will give you one heart, and put a new spirit within you. And I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then you will be My people, and I shall be your God.
I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.
I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.
I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will perform it.
I will accept you.
I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.
I will deliver My flock, and you will no longer be a prey.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
I will save you from all your uncleanness.
I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.
I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.
I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people.
I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land.
I will tell you the truth.
I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.
I will also have compassion on you who had not obtained compassion.
I will heal your apostasy, I will love you freely.
I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.
I will pour out my Spirit on you.
I will show you miracles.
I will tear off your shackles.
I will dwell in your midst.
I will save you that you may become a blessing.
I will camp around My house because of an army, because of him who passes by and returns; and no oppressor will pass over you anymore.
I will restore double to you.
I will strengthen you.
I will return to you, if you return to me.
I will make you fishers of men.
I will give you rest, all who are weary and heavy-laden.
I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.
I will go ahead of you.
I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
I will send the Helper to you.

Surprised by everything God says “I will do?” “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” — John 14:27-29 (NASB)

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Pursuit of God’s Comfort, God’s Comfort Pursues Me

Look well at My handpicked Servant; I love Him so much, take such delight in Him. I've placed my Spirit on Him; He'll decree justice to the nations. But He won't yell, won't raise His voice; there will be no commotion in the streets. He won't walk over anyone's feelings, won't push you into a corner. Before you know it, His justice will triumph; The mere sound of His name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers. Matthew 12:18-20, Isaiah 42:1-2, The Message

When I’ve given my spiritual and professional best and in return my intentions, offerings and heart receive barbs and misjudgment, I find it interesting how God comforts me. One difficult aspect about being the only adult in your household is not having anyone to process thorny circumstances and difficult people with porcupine personalities.

I needed perspective and not my own. I called a successful professional who evaluates top management for a search firm to ask for input. My headhunter friend finds people with the right personality and communication skills for the right leadership position. 

All I asked? Could you read an email and give me feedback. After reviewing the opening paragraph of an email that shot my brain into a full-on migraine, this evaluator of interviewing successful candidates affirmed what my body told me was true.

A Headhunter's Impartial Evaluation
The tone of communication was not something that reflected maturity or respect. “This person is not open to anything you have to say. Decline the opportunity,” was the advice offered, reinforcing a thought cycling in my mind, “A dog returns to its vomit.”
The communiqué felt familiar. Far too often my loyalty and commitment to the Lord, ministry and serving others set me up to accept spiritual abuse by those in a leadership position of power.

But was God calling me to feel humiliated, demeaned, discouraged, and put down in order to serve man?

God calls us to communicate the heart of His message and who He is. We reflect Him by how we talk to and treat others, even to those who rub us wrong or irritate our temperaments. After all, God’s love never stops pursuing those whose actions irritate Him and those who outright reject Him.

Thousands attend my church, so attending a service is an exercise in extreme loneliness and disconnection. Yea, the praise and worship is musical perfection and I’m there to worship. The sermon? Professional. Theologically sound. Top notch. But sometimes concern from a loving community is what you really need and that’s not what a cast of thousands of strangers offers.

Yesterday a kind pastor greeted me with a side hug and “Glad you are here.” Tears issuing from my hurting heart flowed throughout praise and worship. I longed to be understood and comforted. My downtrodden heart listened to the lead pastor speak on Psalm 23 and how in the midst of the dark valley God is with us. A part of me thought, “Yea right. I’m not feeling that right now.” My strafed heart offered God a silent plea, “I need you to show up and be with me. I need to feel your comfort.” Minutes later, walking to the parking lot, I ran into a new ministry partner. Her warmth and our shared ministry passion lifted my down spirit.

That evening and many tears later, a friend sent a tear-stained devotional she wrote after the sudden, devastating loss of her sister. Her sister’s last words? “Don’t not be who you are.” How often had I been “not who I am” to please those who demand you earn grace they’re not equipped or willing to give?

Don't Not Be Who You Are
Today I received three emails. One that simply stated the Scriptures written above. Another  titled, “You can reframe anything.” Okay, I needed to reframe the upsetting experience. The other comforting and encouraging email was titled: “Why Higher Writing Can Hurt.”

Writers make many sacrifices for their art.

Does standing out set you up?

Time, family, money, activities, the life of writing does not guarantee much but deprivation.

Yet choosing the goal of higher writing may ensure some readers will be offended. We humans can't seem to help but resent what we can't control. Having the goal not of providing answers but providing an experience may be freeing and produce a certain glee in the writer, but it can also open you to being a scandal.

Those who stand out may be branded.

But my encouragement to you is this: be assured of the value of participating in the challenges for higher writing. The journey is worth it.

In the search for what's possible through words, what is pain but an opportunity for greater comfort? What is sorrow, but a chance to realize more joy on the other side? If a goal of your story is to show that all works out for good ultimately in the end, you may be called on to prove that conviction with your life. Seeking this way might set you apart, make you a target. A deeper awareness may be your stock and trade, but it could hurt too.

My challenge to you is to accept the sacrifice. When you are in love, is there really any choice? Leave the anxiety behind and seek out the mysteries, come what may. If you've been called to explore heights and valleys, you are never alone in either place. Ever-present help is always right there in the choice to hope, to believe, and to write despite the costs.

Standing with you in your essential difference as a writer of more real, more honest, more challenging words this week....Lovingly, Your Coach

After five days of tears and emotional conflict and pain, the coach’s email reminds me again: I am called by God, not man. I am handpicked by God’s servant to serve others through my giftings, passion, personality, and temperament. Deep within my God-designed spiritual DNA, God takes delight in how he created me and affirms, “Don’t not be who you are.”

To offer the sender of the wounding missive mercy, I deleted emails filling in details he lacked leading him to hurtful, false conclusions, and simply replied, “I’m not a fit for this role.”