Sunday, January 30, 2011

Who Really Lives That Way?

It's been a while since I've read this chapter. As I started reviewing it the other night, I couldn't help but ask myself one question... one word actually: "Really?" I mean, is this what it actually looks like to be obsessed with God, to TRULY follow Christ? I'll admit, at first I was a little taken back... some of these people, by our society's standards, are just down right crazy! But, as I put the book away and took time to let God work on my heart, I began to realize something. The biggest complaint I've had with this book (and it isn't really with the book) is the flippant reaction that many have had after reading it. I know so many people that have read the book... but most stopped about half-way through... only to throw their hands up and say, "Well, all Chan wants us to do is sell everything and live like paupers." This chapter is proof that Chan's expectations are nothing of the sort... but more importantly, neither are God's. (But, that's not a free pass to live in excess either!)

The lives highlighted in Chapter 9 are all different. Yes, some have lived in poverty. Some have walked away from lavish excess. Some have just packed up and moved to other countries. But others have not. Some of them are living "obsessively" for Christ in their own neighborhoods. As I've struggled to figure out what being obsessed really looks like, I've finally come to the conclusions that it doesn't look a certain way for everyone. In fact, the only common thread that weaves itself in every obsessed Christian is that they place God first, follow Him always... no matter where it takes them. That's an incredibly terrifying thought, if you really think about it... if you're not a place where putting God first is a natural instinct. What I've come to realize is that those that become disgusted with this book or insist that Chan is adamant we all live in poverty are refusing to really look at what Chan is saying... which is that living obsessed lives for Christ is COMPLETELY possible. But, for some of us... those that have immersed ourselves into this culture, either by choice or consequence, have to take a really hard look at where we are, how we're living, what we are placing before God. When we do that, when we really take inventory of our lives...maybe it seems easier to live a life of poverty than "incorporating" God into our current lives! (And the reason is because we're not suppose to incorporate God into our lives... we are suppose to give God our lives!)

Over each of the next seven blog entries, I will look at two of the lives Chan has highlighted in Chapter 9. My intention here isn't to focus on these people; but, instead, to focus on how God has lead them. Each story is uniquely different... as each of us are uniquely different. But, what you'll soon realize... if you haven't already... is that each individual story reiterates a common, undeniable theme. We can choose to ignore it... OR we can see how God wants each us to live out that theme in our own lives.


This is my favorite video in the series. Take a look at the video for Chapter 9:

Monday, January 24, 2011


Well... this is it. This is the last characteristic Chan gives us for being obsessed with God... and it's also the end of Chapter 8! But first things first:

"A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying 'Thank You!' to God. An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy. He revels in his role as child and friend of God." p. 148.

Well, I have to admit that this one is quite hard to swallow tonight. It is yet another reminder that despite how far I have come... I still have far to go. Just tonight, I was brought to tears out of pure frustration over our finances. We were holding out hope that the New Year would bring with it a little relief... I mean, that's what we were promised. But as it turns out, because of the way our State's finances are structured, not only are we not getting that much hyped about "relief"... we're bringing home less. All I could do was plead with God, asking Him why this is happening... the LAST thing that even crossed my mind was to thank Him. Even now, to say the words, "Thank You" would be hollow, void of all sincerity. To be quite honest, I don't even know if I'm in the right frame of mind to even write this tonight... but I can't sleep and the house is quiet, so I'll just see where God leads me in this.

Right now, I'm reading Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll. In the section I read tonight, he talked about what he considered the biggest heresy: humanism.... the thought that we control our own destiny; the whole "pull yourself up by the bootstrap" philosophy of life. And as I sit here pondering the current situation I find myself in, I can't help but think that I'm falling into the trap myself. And then on top of that, I'm feeling a little hypocritical. A dear friend of mine is about to take one of the biggest leaps of faith I can even imagine. She and her husband are preparing to plant a new church, and for the short term this means leaving their life here (with no certainty where they will be in one year) and no definite income...except what they can raise. The other night, I sent her a rather lengthy email, in hopes of encouraging her... reminding her of God's faithfulness and how we should never hide our fears...or our doubts... because God uses all of it for His glory. That advice would be really good for me, as well... but I don't want it!

On Sunday, she got up in front of the church and spoke words that have been resonating in my soul ever since. During this journey, she had to challenge herself to make a choice between living by comfort... or living by faith. As I sat there and watched her speak, I couldn't help but marvel at how far she has come... and as tears streamed down my face, I realized that I am terrified by the thought of letting go of my comfort... because I have no idea what my life will look like if I live by faith. As unhappy as I am right now, I'm the first to admit that my life is good... better than good... but, I'm equating "good" with comfort! The reason I'm unhappy is because I'm placing comfort over faith. If I can't thank God now... when I face small bumps in the road... how will I be able to thank Him if, and when, I face real hardship, real loss? I don't have an answer to this question. This is a HUGE road block in my journey right now... and I'm also realizing that He won't remove the road block (even though He can) until I stop protecting it!


I usually post the video for the next chapter at this point, but tonight I came across this very appropriate video by Matt Chandler. It's short, and humorous, but also extremely on target with this characteristic.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Dedicated

I really like the statement Chan makes on page 146: "We tend to think of joy as something that ebbs and flows depending on life's circumstances. But, we just don't lose joy, as though one day we have it and the next it's gone, oh darn. Joy is something that we have to chose and then work for. Like the ability to run for an hour, it doesn't come automatically. It needs cultivation."

I love the comparison to running, because that's something I understand. The last time I went for a long run was about six months ago. I ran 12 miles and felt incredible. The next week, however, my "pregnancy sickness" hit... which meant I had to hang up my running shoes. And for the last six months, every time I go to the shoe basket, I see them... they taunt me... they mock me! After all this time, they've made their way to the bottom of the basket, but nonetheless, I see them. And every time I see them, I start to feel sick to my stomach. The reason is because I know how difficult it's going to be to get back to running 12 miles AND feel incredible. To be completely honest, it's going to be difficult to get up to three miles and feel incredible. Anyone that's been in a similar situation... whether it's due to pregnancy, injury or lack of time (or discipline!)... understands the frustration. But all of that doesn't matter, because in the end, the only answers, the only thing that works, it to lace up those annoying shoes and place one foot in front of the other. There's no shortcut, no magic cure-all. There's just your persistence, your discipline and your perseverance... your dedication. Understanding this helps me better understand Chan's characteristic for The Dedicated:

"A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn't depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God (James 1:2-4)." p. 146.

Yet, what I love most is Chan's explanation of when true joy is formed: "The Bible teaches that true joy is formed in the midst of the difficult seasons of life." This is counter-intuitive to everything our culture throws at us: joy comes when we look a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way, do a certain thing... joy comes through indulgence, spending exorbitant amounts of money, and thinking of oneself first. Right? Well, those things MIGHT buy you temporary "happiness"... or, at least a pleasant distraction... but, in my experience, they NEVER buy you joy. What I've come to learn these past few months is that through this difficult season, God has revealed those things that truly matter: my husband, my children, my church, my service to all three, but mostly my love and service to Him. The irony is that the storms of my current situation have not calmed. There is as much uncertainty now, as there was six months ago... but despite the storms, there is peace and an inexplicable joy that (quite honestly) doesn't make sense to those that don't believe in Christ... because it is counter-intuitive to this worldly, self-indulgent culture.

I'm constantly asked, with baited breathe: How are you doing? Do you know what the next step is on the "job front"? How are you going to manage four kids and homeschooling? For most, the thought of my life circumstances is a little overwhelming... and at times it can be. But, I have complete confidence that God has me where He wants me... something that I couldn't say with certainty a year ago (even though a year ago my life LOOKED a lot more joyful!) The only explanation I can give for this is simple: Six months ago, I started seeking Him more. I became diligent in my pursuit of Him. And while I haven't found the answers to my "most pressing questions," I have found joy... just in knowing that God is there. He is in control. He has revealed Himself in countless ways... and with that brings and inexplicable peace that cannot be manufactured and bought. It can ONLY be given as a gift from the Creator.


Where does your joy come from...honestly? Where do you seek it? Who do you look to for it? Take an honest assessment. What are you putting before God?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Rooted

Chan starts this section with a rather frightening statistic: The average Christian in the United States spends ten minutes per day with God; meanwhile, the average American spends over four hours a day watching television.

But, for those of you getting a little 'big for your britches' because you don't watch television...or, as in my case, you don't even have one... not to worry, Chan doesn't let you off the hook. He goes on to say: "Perhaps TV is not your thing-maybe you don't even own one. But how about your time and your resources? How much of your money is spent on yourself, and how much is directed toward God's kingdom? How much of your time is dedicated to pursuing your life and your goals, and how much is focused on God's work and purpose?" p 145.

For me, this one characteristic of being obsessed sums up the difference between "doing the Christian thing" and being a Christian... it's the difference between going to some building on Sunday morning, hearing a really inspiring sermon (or not so inspiring sermon) and then leaving only to return to your "not-so-Christian" existence the other six days of the week... and the a life that is truly inspired, God-centered and purposeful, everyday of the week.

So, what does the latter look like? Well, Chan's characterization is this:

"People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him. They are nourished by God's Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter distractions and alternative messages." p. 145. (emphasis added)

I LOVE the last part of this, the somewhat sanitized notion of "distractions and alternative messages." I can't help but think of my memory verse for the remainder of this month:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. " James 1:27 (emphasis added)

This scripture falls right in line with Chan's characterization. Our job, as Christians, is to make sure that we don't become "polluted" with the "distractions and alternative messages" of this world. The best way to do this is to be rooted in Him... His Word, His music, His fellowship. Yes, we are to go out into the world and make disciples of men, (and not stay hidden within the safety of our houses, our churches or insulated by a "cushiony" group of fellow Christians.) But, if we don't stay rooted in Him, we can become easily distracted... or worse, loose sight of Him.

But of all the things that have been mentioned here, I think this is the most important: It doesn't matter who you are, or where you are in your faith. You could be a new believer just trying to "learn the ropes," a long-time Christian that has truly walked with the Lord, or a devoted and beloved pastor... we are ALL at risk of complacency, maybe not loosing sight of God as much as being distracted by this world. Look around, literally and figuratively... what and who are you surrounded by... ARE YOU DISTRACTED?????


Take inventory of your distractions... literally make a list. Then, figure out a way to start marking them off! Sounds simple... but let me assure you, it can be pretty difficult. If you're not sure what your specific distractions might be... ask God to reveal them to you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Unguarded Ones

You know... I really love how God works. This post, for example... I started writing it one week ago. When I started typing, I was really excited because this was one "obsessed" topic that I could confidently reflect upon. But, God, in his ultimate wisdom, had other plans. So, for the past week, it has been distraction after distraction. Countless things have "popped up" causing me to push off this entry. I was beginning to accuse myself of procrastination (something that isn't too common for me), but after having dinner with dear friends the other night, I knew that my putting off this entry was more about gaining insight than lack of motivation!

A week ago, I was going to ramble on about how it's a waste of time to hide things from God... because he knows everything about us already. Sometimes, being honest about who we are, how we feel... is a little difficult. But, after having dinner the other night, I realized that being "unguarded" is about more than transparency. I'm not sure if Chan had this in mind... but God definitely pricked my heart on this one, so I'm going to share. But first, let's look at Chan's definition:

"People that are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures. Obsessed people don't put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace." p. 144.

So, the other night, I met two dear friends for dinner. We spent the two hours enjoying Thai food and sharing what God was doing in our lives. One of my friends, in particular, is starting a new adventure that is pushing her out of her comfort zone. This impending change is uprooting her family, and includes many uncertainties... at least for the foreseeable future. It was obvious that she trusts God... but equally obvious that fear and trepidation were lingering. As I left dinner that night, my heart was heavy for her... probably because I understand her feelings, even though our situations are a little different. I'm struggling with all the changes in my life, but for me the transition has been steps, as I like to say it. For her, it's happening pretty fast. So where am I going with this you might ask? Well, here's the thing... as I left the restaurant I began wondering about how God feels about our fears and doubts when it comes to Him. I have no problem being "unguarded" with God when it comes to how I honestly feel about everything (and everyone) else... but what about Him?

So, as I wrote to my friend yesterday, sharing with her all the things God placed upon my heart, one thing in particular directly pierced my soul. It's pretty easy for us to sit here and say that we try to "keep things from God." But, if we really think about it... that's not possible and we know it. So, that makes me believe that there's something more to our behavior... there's another reason why we aren't completely honest with Him... at least through our own admission, because remember: He already knows everything!

So, what is it? Well, the easiest comparison is this: When you were a child and you did something really bad... something so bad that the impending punishment from your parents was nothing compared to the disappointment you knew they would did whatever was in your power to cover it up, make it better, or just make it go away... anything to keep the parental units from finding out. Well, I think we do the same thing with God. If we don't talk to Him about "it"....maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to make "it" go away on our own. But, what about when it comes to not trusting God? When we try to convince ourselves and others that we know everything is going to be okay... even though we doubt? I truly think this is the worst way we can live "guarded" lives.

I could ramble on about this topic forever, but I'll try to stick to the major point, which is this: Pretending that we don't have doubts (let alone sin) is doing much more than keeping us from living obsessed lives for Christ... IT'S ROBBING GOD OF GLORY! For you see, if we place all of our "junk" at His feet... even our doubts about Him... that transparency allows Him to work freely in our lives. If we acknowledge our struggles, He uses them as part of our redemption. Yes, He could do it on His own. But, our participation, in this sometimes painful process, makes the reward so much sweeter! For you see, it's our participation that draws us closer to Him. It's our obedience, no matter how trying and difficult, that lends itself to a beautiful, transforming relationship that transforms lives... starting with our own!


Give it over to Him... whatever it is! No excuses. Be honest with Him and with yourself. That's the first step in achieving a life of transformation through the body of Christ... well, after salvation, of course!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Engrossed

Chan's commentary on this characteristic is extremely brief, so we'll jump right to his definition:

"A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being." p. 143

Now, if you're anything like me, you'll read that and feel almost defeated. I've mentioned it here countless times before... feeling "passionate" love for God just seems like a stretch. (And, if I'm REALLY honest... committed love to God is something I struggle with!) Now, don't get me wrong, in the most basic sense of the word "commitment" I am a true believer. That's not what I mean. The only way I know how to describe the struggle I have is to compare it to my relationship with my husband. I am totally, 100% committed to my husband, in every way... not just the obvious ones! I think of him often. I call him at work frequently and send emails of encouragement when I think he could use them. I'm constantly mindful of his opinions when I make a decision... of course, I've been known to ignore his opinions as well, but that's a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ISSUE! The point is that he is always on my mind, in some form or another... I can't really say that about God.

Now, in all fairness, I've taken incredible strides in this area over the past few months... and I'm much harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else! But, regardless, I still have my moments of ignoring God (sometimes blatantly)... most of us do. I guess the difference for me is the growth I've been experiencing. When I first read this passage, almost a year ago, I focused on the first part: "committed, settled, passionate love for God." I got so hung up on not having those things... not even knowing where to begin looking for them, that I missed the somewhat hidden directive... or at least the clue... in the latter half of the characteristic:

God must be placed above and before every other thing and every other being.

I recently completed a Beth Moore study dealing with the issue of strongholds... and how to get rid of them. What I took away from that study not only helped with the strongholds in my life, but has helped me get closer to God. Whenever I find myself struggling with something (especially when my mind starts going in a negative direction), I stop and give it to Him. It might sound silly, but I promise you that it works. For one, I almost instantly stop obsessing over the stronghold; but, more importantly, I placing it at His feet. I take time to talk to Him. Over the course of the past two months, I have found that instead of picking up the phone to complain about something to someone else, my instinct is to go to Him first... I've started living out this characteristic (intentionally or not!).


For the next 24 hours, if you find yourself going in a negative direction (physically, mentally, spiritually), take pause and give whatever it is to God. See if this is a natural way to draw you into more one-on-one time with Him.

Monday, January 10, 2011


For those of you not quite sure what a sojourner is, let me explain. By definitition, it refers to someone taking up a temporary residence. For us Christians, it's a reminder that this world is NOT our home. We're only... stopping through... so to speak. Now, keeping that in mind, let's look at Chan's characteristic for the Sojourner:

"A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them." p. 142.

A few years ago, the small group we were in at the time, had a conversation on this subject matter. The question posed to us was whether we spend our time here on earth thinking about our lives here... or our lives in heaven. Everyone in the group took this to be a literal question, citing that it's hard to think about life in heaven because we don't really know what it will be like. Life here on earth, on the other hand, was easy to focus on... for a myriad of reasons! I remember sitting there, pondering the question, feeling as if there was a deeper issue needing to be explored. For me, when I heard the question, my interpretation was a little different. I took it as this: When posed with circumstances, questions, conflicts (whatever the case may be) are my decisions based on my sinful life here on earth or are they based on the reward I will get in heaven? Do I chose to resolve my "worldly issues" with the understanding that I'm a sojourner... more importantly, do I solve them with the understanding that my choices here in this world could (most definitely!) effect my eternal life in His kingdom?

When I posed the question to the group, I remember everyone taking pause...including myself! How often do we think about life in heaven when we make seemingly trivial decisions here on earth? But, the better question is this: If we started thinking about our eternal life in heaven when we make ALL of our decisions here on earth... would we make the same decisions? (Warning: Answering this question just might make you a little... or a lot... uncomfortable!)
This morning, I finished one of the most thought provoking, utterly convicting (and confirming!) books that I've read in a long time... second only to Crazy Love. (The irony here is that both books were given to me by the same person! My husband joked that maybe I shouldn't borrow any more books from her for a while!) The book is entitled Under The Overpass by Mike Yankoski. Mike and his friend Sam spent about five months of their lives living on the streets... as homeless people. What they discovered... especially about the church as a whole... was more than disconcerting! Of course, there were a few bright lights out there being the hands and feet of Christ... but not a lot. Anyway, at the end of the book, an interesting question is posed to the reader and I want to pass it a long to you:
"What would I do during my day or in my life for God if I wasn't concerned with what I wear, what I eat, where I sleep, what I own, what people think of me, or what discomforts I face?"
Shortly after asking this question, Matthew 16:24-25 is referenced:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life must lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (emphasis added)
For the first time, I see this Scripture in a new light. Maybe it's just where I am right now in the journey, but as I sit here, staring at my computer screen, the conviction and confirmation is undeniable... and more than a little terrifying... but, nonetheless, undeniable! "To lose my life" means that I must finally let go of the life I have right now... the life my husband and I have created for ourselves (a creation that we didn't plan... it just "happened" because we believed what society conditioned us to's just suppose to be "this" way!) I won't go into the specifics, because the specifics are ours... this journey with Jesus is different for all of us! Walking away from the life we have created won't be easy... and it won't happen over night. It's been a process that we began almost nine months ago. But, even in the baby steps we have taken (some of them painful), God has confirmed our decisions every step of the way. At the very end of Under the Overpass, Mike writes these words... words I want you to ponder for the next few days...
"There's only this left to do: Walk off the ledge with Him."
Some of you might think the idea of "walking off the ledge with Him" seems a "little drastic"...I don't blame you. Walking off a ledge, given the context, can embody a sense of desperation, lack of preparation... even carelessness. Obviously, this isn't the intention. But, for those with a weaker constitution lets refer to it as "taking a leap of faith with Him." (A leap is not as intimidating!)

Thursday, January 6, 2011


While Chan shares many thoughts on this subject, I want to focus on one statement in particular that he makes. The reason I want to focus on it is because it sticks out like a sore thumb. It's one sentence, with no other supporting details, lingering on the page: "Non-churchgoers tend to see Christians as takers rather than givers." p. 140

Does that seem a little odd to you? I would be eager to agree that "non-Christians" might tend to find Christians, in general, to be somewhat indifferent... especially in the Western Hemisphere... maybe even self-centered, but takers? I found this all to be extremely curious, so, like always, I did a little research. What I found was HIGHLY enlightening. Now, I'll be the first to admit that what I found most intriguing was the opinion (and subsequent argument) on one specific website...whose authenticity I cannot verify (so I won't post a link here); HOWEVER, I truly found the perspective fascinating...mind opening... convicting!

But, before I get to that, let's take a look at the characteristic Chan lays out for givers:

"People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers. Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world (James 2:14-26)." p. 141

So, in my research, I came across this website that laid out some of the obvious differences between Christians that are givers and those that are takers. Here are some of the examples, based on questions and concerns, each might ask when it comes to serving the kingdom:

GIVERS: Are concerned with how things will benefit others; follows the flow with insight and rolls with the punches; bears pain (not necessarily physical) silently and with patience; lives confidently day to day; no time table; committed to others; offers help unconditionally; on spiritual pilgrimage; proactive; reality based; attention is deflected away

TAKERS: Are concerned with how things benefit them; must be "lords" and appear in control; whiners; always finds something to complain about; time and schedules are closely monitored; committed to self; offer help only until angered; resists spiritual transformation; reactive; fantasy driven: "If only..."; attention is desired and sought after (i.e., nice clothes, jewelery, homes, cars)

This is a small sample of the countless comparisons I found on this particular website. As I read through the list, I began to understand that the concept of "taker" wasn't literal. I have to admit, when I first read Chan's passage, I had this mental image of someone sitting in church taking money out of the offering plate instead of putting money in! I knew this wasn't what he meant, but my mind went there anyway. This whole "giver-taker" comparison isn't about giving and taking what belongs to's about giving and taking WHAT IS GOD'S! It's about selfish motivations over God-centered, kingdom- minded motivations.

As I sit here, in the stillness of my house, I can't help but confront the blaring reality: being a Christian doesn't automatically make us a giver. Unfortunately, I know many Christians that possess a large majority of the "taker-characteristics"... I possess quite a few of them myself! Yet, over the past six months, I can honestly say that I've noticed a change in this area... a change that I can only attribute to the Gospel. Now, I know that some people roll their eyes when they hear people tell them they just need to crack open the Bible and start reading in order to experience change in their lives... but I'm here to say that it's true... (AND I WAS ONE OF THE BIGGEST SKEPTICS!!!!) I look at the list of characteristics for takers and can't help but think that it's almost insurmountable! Some of those characteristics, at least in my life, are the result of YEAR AND YEARS of conditioning... deeply ingrained. To undo them would take a miracle... thank goodness, God's in that business!


Do you consider yourself to be a "giver" or a "taker"? Look over some of the characteristics again and spend some time thinking about this today. Any strongholds you might have... give over to God. Only He has the power to change us!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Have you ever stopped and thought about WHY you serve? Recently, I found myself thinking about this very thing. At our church, it's been really difficult to recruit and retain volunteers in our Children's Ministry Program. I ALWAYS feel guilty when someone asks if I would be willing to help out. I never say, "No." BUT...I want to. And to be honest, I all but say, "No." I've begged and pleaded... groveled, really. Then I follow up by saying, "But, if you can't find anyone else and you really need me then I will." I'm a fine example, right? In my defense (if I can call it that!), I'm at home with three kids five days a week... homeschooling. I look at going to church as my respite... the one place where, for about an hour, I can sit, hear God's word and not be interrupted with endless requests for help with school work, going to the potty or fixing juice.

So, reading Chan's description for this characteristic was a little painful:

"People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden. Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people (Matt. 13:44; John 15:8)."

Yet, as painful as it is to read this characteristic, I have to admit that I still feel the same way... sort of. I think the problem with this characteristic is that the word "service" is painted with a broad stroke... especially when referring to my example. Over the past few weeks, I've really spent some time looking at everything I do outside of my familial structure. I was stretched pretty thin...serving. And for the most part, I loved the way I chose to serve. However, a lot of the activities I was participating in weren't necessarily about serving other people. Of course, I could rationalize that they were... and I'm quite sure I could convincingly persuade you of the same. But, I know my heart, that the majority of my service, first and foremost, fulfilled a personal need for myself... kinda takes away from the point of service, doesn't it!

Now, some might argue that it doesn't matter why you're motivated to serve... the important thing is that you ARE serving. But, I beg to differ. I think your motivation is equally important... if not more important. I could enter into a rather lengthy diatribe here, but I'll spare you! I'll just share what God has put on my heart these past few months... and how He has changed my heart when it comes to the area of service.

I strongly believe that God places desires in our hearts, and that He gives us gifts, both spiritual and physical, that He wants us to share with others... IN SERVICE TO HIM. As I've spent time the past couple of months thinking about the portions God has given to me, I have grown to understand and appreciate the difference in serving out of necessity, or obligation, and serving out of true love for Him. In my example, the Children's Ministry Program needed volunteers, which, in this particular case means teaching the kids a pre-planned curriculum and making sure that nothing gets out of hand. As I mentioned before, this wasn't appealing to me... mostly because it's an extension of my rather monotonous weekdays. But, as I began to think about my gifts... specifically how I could use my gifts to fill an obvious need, an interesting thing began to happen. I was coming up with ideas that would not only help fill a void in that particular ministry, but could, quite possibly, enhance it. I thought about taking my love for music, or missions, and using those gifts to teach the children... starting a new ministry within the Children's Ministry. (Now, it should be noted that I haven't done these things; however, I have suggested the idea and expressed my willingness to pursue the endeavor.)

I've come to realize that so many of us see service as a chore because we just "plug in" to existing projects, or ministries. Sometimes this limits us, and ultimately, frustrates us. And, it's really hard to serve with a joyful heart when we're frustrated with what we're doing. Some might scoff at what I'm proposing, adhering to the 'ole saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" But, my contention is that something doesn't have to be broken for it to lose its effectiveness. What I'm suggesting is that the best way to combat complacency, or mere routine, is to infuse it with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit... through the myriad of gifts and talents that He bestows on us. If we begin to think outside the box, if you will, I'm quite positive that we'll begin to see the endless opportunities of how we can bring the idea of service to a new level. The best way I know to show love to God's children (young or old) through service, is to teach them about what He has done in my life... to share the gifts He has given me. And I think this is the transformation that Chan is eluding to... where service is no longer about obligation, but, instead, about the pure joy of loving God and His people... of sharing Him with others.


When you think of service, what feelings do you have? Joy or dread? Do you think of obligation or opportunity? If the word "service" brings up feelings of dread or obligation, maybe it's time for you (like me!) to think outside the box. Sometimes that's where He gives me my best ideas!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Humble

In this characteristic, Chan really focuses on the sin of vanity, but I think our battle with humility encompasses more than our vanity...but I'll get to that in a little while. First, let's look at Chan's characteristic:

"A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle. Obsessed people know that you can never be 'humble enough,' and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known (Matt. 5:16)."

Chan opens up this passage with the following statement: "The church in America loves to turn saints into celebrities, to make known the stories of the humble people who have faithfully served Christ in some way... But there can be a tragic consequence to it: Too many of these people fall for the praise and start to believe that they really are something special." p. 137.

On a personal note, I must say that it rubs me the wrong way (a little) when we are referred to as NOT being special. The point here is that Jesus is special... the "most specialist," as my son likes to say! But, because of Jesus... because God loved us so much, He gave gave us Jesus... that makes us special. Worthy? No. But, God's love for us... Jesus' sacrifice for us... makes us special. But, often times, we forget (or never fully understand!) that being set apart in this way DOESN'T make us the center of the world. It doesn't place us on a pedestal. What it does is make us accountable. Because we are special, we are called to live our lives in a very unique way... 100% counter-intuitive to today's societal mores. Because we are special, we are called to deny ourselves and give all glory to God... because, in the end, He's the one that's responsible for us actually being "special," right?

So, if this is true... why are we so hesitant to give the glory to God? Here's Chan's opinion on the subject: "It's pride, plain and simple, that keeps me from giving God all the glory and keeping some of it for myself. It is a battle we all fight, in some form or another, some of us daily or even hourly." p. 138.

In my opening statement, I alluded to the fact that vanity isn't the only stumbling block we encounter in our spiritual growth. Chan touches on it here when he refers to pride being a battle we all face "in some form or another." So, I want to take a moment to focus on another form of pride: Our need for affirmation. Some of us, myself included, have a deep seeded need for affirmation. I can trace mine back to childhood. For me, I grew up in a home where love was conditional. I received acknowledgement when I was making straight A's or singing a solo in a choir concert, but besides that, my parents didn't really give me the time of day. (That's not to say that they didn't love me. I know they did. But, from my perspective, their love was conditional. They didn't really acknowledge me unless I was doing "something" worth acknowledging.) Fast forward 20 years, I still fight the urge for acknowledgement, just in a different arena. Now, I'm a stay-at-home mom of three, soon to be four, children. Sometimes, I don't see my own value... better yet, I fear that I will be seen by others as "just a mom"... and I know there is great importance in my role as a mother. I'm not belittling that. But, there is a stereotype out there about stay-at-home moms and I want people to know that I'm not that stereotype... which comes back to pride. Unlike vanity and thinking that you're much more important than you actually are, the pride associated with the need for acknowledgement, in my opinion, is more sinister because it has to do with a need for OTHER people to give you validation. It's a backhanded take on pride, that equally robs God of the glory... the glory of validating your existence, your worth to Him... because the opinion of man really means nothing.

So... what do we do? The answer is simple: pray. Chan writes: "One of the ways I know to fight against pride is through focused prayer. What I mean is that before you say one word to God, take a minute and imagine what it would be like to stand before His thrown as you pray." For those that suffer with vanity, I can't imagine anything more humbling. For those that suffer from insecurity (or the need for acknowledgment), focus on the fact that God in His glory is far more important... His opinion of us is far more important... than the opinion of any man or woman on this earth... no matter who they are.


Do you ever rob God of His rightful glory? It's a really interesting question to ponder. When I was first asked that question a few years ago, I honestly had no idea what it really meant. Now, looking back, I can see examples in my life where I most definitely robbed God of His glory.... times when someone thanked me for something I did or said (which, consequently, were due to the prompting of God); or those times when I would pat myself on the back for a job well done, not once acknowledging God (yet alone thanking Him) for the capabilities, given by Him, to do the job. The scary thing is that I truly had no clue that I was robbing God of anything... or that I was completely ignoring His involvement in my life.

Spend some time reflecting on your own life... God's involvement in your life. Give Him the glory today in all you do... See what changes you notice.