Why I’d Rather be Wanted than Needed

hands reaching out

As a college pastor in Gainesville, Florida, I once had the privilege of hosting a missionary, known as Uncle Charlie. This man was remarkable—he had comforted dying street children in his arms and washed the feet of real, modern-day lepers. Under communism in Vietnam, he had embraced the dangerous call to smuggle Bibles into the country for the underground church. In his latter days, he had built up a ministry to the street children of Ho Chi Min City—where he personally prepared and delivered peanut butter sandwiches to all his “kids”.

I’ll never forget how Uncle Charlie, now in his late 70’s and suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, pushed himself around slowly in his walker, and laid hands, and blessed us young people. I’ll also never forget when, in private, Charlie lamented to me about the arrogant attitude he sometimes noticed in ministers in the United States.

He leaned in: “AJ, always remember: God doesn’t need you. You need God.”

As the old preacher saying goes, amen or oh-my… I’ve meditated much on this statement over the years. Although it may sound harsh at first, I believe it’s actually extremely loving and has the power to set us free.

Let’s break down what he said… God does not need us. In other words, we’re not that big of a deal. We don’t impress God. God is not (and never will be) awestruck by our spiritual gifts, talents, skill-sets, religious effort, and/or achievements.

And to act like God needs us belies a considerable amount of self-importance.

This is not the attitude God wants us to have. Our loving Father knows this attitude is not good for us; He knows when we travel along the path of self-importance, we always end up in one of two places:

  1. ARROGANCE: I am awesome! God must be so impressed!
  2. DESPAIR: I stink. God must hate me!

You see, pride is a roller coaster. Really high. Or really low. We’re tossed to and fro… from “I’m amazing”, to “I suck”.

Back and forth we go. In the vicious cycle of self-reliance, there’s: 

1.I’m amazing; it’s time to judge everybody else!

2. Oh no, I’m terrible; I’m the worst person ever.

back to:

1. Yay, God is impressed with me! Everyone else really needs to get it together!

2. Oops, I screwed up. God must think I’m an idiot!

Ever felt trapped in this cycle?

Here’s good news: God doesn’t NEED you, but He does WANT you!

So many people today feel like they have to impress God. They are striving to win His approval through their performance and pretense—stuck on the roller coaster of religion. But God is not some secret admirer from afar; He’s not looking for you to impress Him. God invites you into a relationship with Himself, face to face. God wants intimate relationship—nothing more, nothing less. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you.

He doesn’t simply need you. He’s not looking for an employee. He doesn’t want you out there performing for Him— He wants you close to Him.

Don’t you see? The merry-go-round of religion has too much relational distance for God’s taste. He’s an up-close and personal God. And He wants to love you. He’s that father who will not stop with a pat on the back— He’s coming in for a hug.

God’s not content with feeding your ego. He desires for you to put down the mask, and let Him feed your soul with affirmation and love.

Why would we seek to impress God when we can be loved by God?

Don’t short-change yourself!

God gave up His very own Son, so that you and I could be loved!  Jesus died, so we could be counted as sons and daughters. So we could know God as Father.

Don’t settle for the lonely and empty path of self-reliance and religion. Embrace the call to be a son or daughter. Be loved like a son or daughter. 

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A Declaration of Independence

4th of July

Today, we celebrate America’s independence. We take time and remember that on this day, July 4th, 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our founding fathers adopted the United States Declaration of Independence. With this beautifully-penned document, they declared themselves free from the control of Great Britain—what they saw as a tyrannical, oppressive outside force.

They wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I thank God for my country. I thank God for it’s unique forming as a nation. And I also rejoice in the fact that my nation celebrates an idea so close to God’s heart:

FREEDOM.

So while we enjoy the fireworks and hot dogs this year, let us also remember: liberty is God’s idea— it’s a commodity that flows from Heaven, and central to His wonderful message to all creation! Let’s remember that when God sent His Son to the earth, His mission was “to set the captives free”. (Luke 4:18) Isn’t that amazing? When God so loved the world (John 3:16), what did He do? He came to set it free. Love gives freedom.

What has God set you free from? What controlling and oppressive things has He defeated on your behalf? What tyranny has He broken off of your life?

What declaration of independence can you make today—because of God’s grace in your life?

For me, God has set me free in so many ways! (If you look at my writing and speaking, I’m basically rehashing over-and-over again all the different things God has set me free from.)

But I want to pick one for today. I want to declare my independence from: SHAME!

TODAY, I AM FREE FROM SHAME AND SELF-LOATHING!

When Jesus found me, I was overrun by the tyranny of self-hatred. Shame utterly perverted my perception of reality. Uncomfortable in my own skin, I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror. Deep self-loathing ruled my heart. I was self-conscience and so embarrassed of myself— and I didn’t even know why.

Obviously, this deep-seated shame kept me from doing anything great with my life. There’s no way I could step out. No way could I embrace risk. I couldn’t handle the criticism and failure that came with believing for big things. I just wanted to stay hidden. Play it safe… My soul was just too fragile. I couldn’t push off the negativity; it would just consume me—and reinforce all the negatives things I believed about myself.

Failure on the outside confirmed: “I was a failure”. Lack of support (or criticism) confirmed: “You see, there IS something wrong with you.”

I was bound. Bound from making a difference. Bound from making a change. I was not free… but Jesus came, and He gave me my independence!

I am free from my own opinion of myself.

Who am I to judge myself? If God is for me, who can be against me? 

I am free from my opinion. I am free from other people’s opinions. I am free from judgement. I am free from condemnation. I am free from pain. I am free from death. I am free from life. I am free from embarrassment. I am free from self-loathing. I am free from self-hatred. I am free.

His love has set me free.

IN JESUS NAME, I DECLARE MY INDEPENDENCE FROM SHAME!

What about you?

 

PRAYER:

Father, I thank you that you are a God of liberty.

I thank you for setting me free!

Because of Your grace, I declare my independence  from ________________

Jesus has set me free. I am free INDEED!

I say, “I’m independent of sin and shame. And dependent upon You.”

I will rejoice. I will remember all You have done.

You are my Vindicator, my Judge, and my Deliverer!

AMEN.

Jealousy Killed the Cat

Jealousy killed1

“For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.”    – James 3:16

Has someone ever got exactly what you wanted?

I’ve experienced this many times. I remember one time, when I was just starting out in ministry, another guy was offered a staff position at our local church in Gainesville, Florida. Man, I was eaten up by envy! Even though I was still a college student, I quickly went into scarcity mode thinking that if this guy took a staff position, then I wouldn’t get one when I graduated. Of course, this was total foolishness, and I ended up being offered a pastoral apprenticeship by the senior pastor only a few months later.

What about you? What was your initial reaction the last time someone got exactly what you wanted? Was it positive? If we’re honest, many times our immediate response—our default setting—is not to jump up and down for the other person. Human nature almost has this knee-jerk reaction,

“THEM?!… WHAT ABOUT ME?!”

If we don’t check this attitude, we may even start thinking to ourselves, “You know, I never really liked that person anyways.”

How quickly that person with “our” stuff starts to become more and more offensive. “I mean, would you look at Mary over there, just chilling with all her sweet stuff… Who does Mary think she is, anyways?”

Go ahead and smile, you know it’s true.

Jealousy can make us do some weird stuff. It can twist up our attitudes real quick and have us, as my buddy says, “throwing shade” before we know it. When jealousy fully takes root in a human heart, it’s a very ugly thing. The Bible calls this situation “bitter envy”. And it can have serious repercussions. Proverbs warns,

“Wrath is cruel, and anger is an overwhelming flood, but who is able to stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4)

When I see a person easily eaten up by envy, I just think to myself this person needs a lot of love.  

I didn’t always think this way. When someone was uncomfortable with me, or slighted me, because of envy, I would quickly take it personal. I would retaliate. Other times, I’d internalize their negativity and assume there was something wrong with me. But now, I know the problem is with them, not with me. (This is NOT to say I am immune to criticism, but thank God, I certainly have thicker skin than I did twelve years ago!)

Here’s the truth: Jealousy can only take place in an insecure person.

Insecure people easily fall prey to jealousy because their souls are not secure in the affirmation of Christ. They’re not yet fully convinced how much God loves them. They see someone’s blessing, and get mad. They hear somebody else’s dream, and they scoff— or worse, they seek to pull it down.

Why? They obviously do not believe that God loves them enough—or is big enough—to bless them, too.

And sometimes, insecurity runs so deep in a person, they don’t even know it’s jealousy they’re feeling! These types of people are totally blind to their bad attitudes—or maybe they disguise their envy as “spiritual discernment” or “just telling it like it is”.

I know this from experience. When Jesus saved me, I was deeply insecure. If a person got what I wanted, I was instantly unhappy, and out throwing a pity-party for myself. Super successful people made me uncomfortable. People with confidence and big dreams bugged me. Thank God I’ve grown in grace.

But no matter how much we grow, ALL of us can still be tempted to be envious from time to time.

That’s why you must continually remind yourself, God is big enough to take care of you and them.

In the Gospels, Jesus took five pieces of bread and fed thousands. The Kingdom of God has no place for a scarcity mindset. He has more than enough to take care of you and anyone else He wants to bless.

Even more encouraging: this same God of unlimited resources loves you personally. And He has given you access to all things through His Son, Jesus! He has invited you to dine with Him as a son or daughter of Heaven.

Do you struggle with jealousy? Me, too… Let’s learn to trust God.

Your Heavenly Father wants to meet your needs more than you do! Allow His word to build up your faith in His love. And the next time jealousy tries to rear it’s ugly head, you’ll stop that “stinking thinking” in it’s tracks and give your “what about me?!” over to God, who cares about you immensely!

Prayer:

Father, thank You that You love me!

Thank You that You’ll take care of me.

When You bless others, I will rejoice!

By faith, I can get excited about other people’s success.

By faith, I know that what you do for others, you can also do for me.

Give me deeper revelation of Your care for me.

My hands shall be open to receive all the good things you have for me!

AMEN.