Last week, I got to sit under the teaching of a fantastic Christian leader. During a Q&A session, someone asked, “What concerns you about the next generation of leaders?” His answer was simple, but direct. “Everybody wants to be a rock star.”
So true. So convicting. And so unlike Jesus Christ, who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant”. (Philippians 2:7) So unlike John the Baptist, who knew that “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) When I fret over declining blog stats…when I work too ambitiously to build the all-important author “platform”…I want my own fame, and not His. I want to be a rock star.
Psalm 138 says what’s most important: “You have exalted above all things your name and your word.” Above all things. Above my ego, above my ambition, even above my calling. God alone is the rock star. God’s name, not mine. God’s word, not mine.
God, be exalted. Raise your name and your word in me, and advance them through me. Let me desire nothing else. You must become greater; I must become less. You alone are above all things! Amen.
“Mom,” my son observed at around age four, “we have three names that we can call you. Mom-my–that’s one. Mom–that’s two. And Mama–that’s three.”
Nathan confirmed what every mom fears at times: that she has no other identity apart from motherhood. That her college degree and talents have been swallowed up by Playhouse Disney and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
On the other hand, I love what Nathan meant. He pointed out three different motherhood roles, and I love them each. I am Mommy when they’re small, or just feeling small. Mama for our everyday relationship. Mom when they’re older…or when their friends are around.
And most likely Mo-ther, when they become teenagers who find me ridiculous.
Different attributes, same person.
Similarly, God has many titles to describe His different characteristics. Several names for one God. Here are three of my favorites:
El Roi: “The God Who Sees.” How I love this name! First spoken by a woman who was treated unjustly and tossed aside, God revealed Himself to her to say, “I see your suffering. I am neither unaware nor uncaring.” God knows–intimately–the heartaches, the fears, the injustices committed against the innocent. In His sovereignty He may allow things to happen that make me doubt His presence at all, but He is there, and He sees.
Jehovah-jireh: “The Lord our Provider.” God faithfully supplies every need. He has cared for my family through surprise checks in the mail and bags of hand-me-down clothes for the kids. Truthfully, though, sometimes I still worry if He’ll come through. More than once, I’ve told Andy, “Jehovah better jireh something up real fast!” He always does. My life attests, over and over, to His faithful provision. Incidentally, the word “jireh” is literally “to see”. When the El Roi sees me…He provides.
Adonai: “Lord.” I’ve been struck lately by His lordship. Jesus is so many tender things, but above all, He is Lord. The Master I serve, the Ruler I obey, and He must not be taken lightly or treated flippantly. Will I submit to His authority in every area of my life? In speech, in attitude, in ambition? I struggle to bend the knee to His lordship, but when I do, I experience the joy and freedom that can only be found in obedience to Adonai.
Different attributes, same Person–and the Name that is above every name!
For other names of God, read Lord, I Want to Know You by Kay Arthur.
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8)
Perception does not always equal reality.
Case in point: when I pull on a pair of old jeans. My perception says, “I’m the same size I was before I had kids.” But reality says, “Are you kidding? These won’t make it over your backside.”
Like I said, perception does not always equal reality.
It’s the same with God and His character. I may have a perception about God that simply isn’t accurate. “God is always angry.” “God is apathetic.” “God is tired of me.” But if my feelings and beliefs don’t line up with scripture, they aren’t truth.
When Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai, he got a dose of reality. He learned firsthand what God is like. God covered Moses with His hand and announced His name as He passed by:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness….” (Exodus 34:6)
Let me tell you who I AM, Moses. I am tenderhearted. I give you blessings that you don’t deserve. I am patient with you. Most of all, my love is unfailing and never-ending.
What a glorious reality. Compassion, grace, patience, unfailing love….The truth of God’s character surpasses anything I could imagine. His reality is greater than my best perception.
God, show me what You’re like. Replace my false perceptions with reality. I want to remain in Your presence (Exodus 33:14-15), and build my life on Your name (Exodus 34:5-7), and reflect Your character to others (Exodus 34:29-30). Will You please reveal Yourself to me until I know You completely? Show me the glory of Your reality. Amen.
A few Sundays ago, just before services began, I pulled up next to one of our church leaders in the parking lot. Sitting alone in his car, he smiled and waved as I parked. When I turned off my van, I heard his music playing loudly. It was one of my favorite songs–MercyMe’s “Word of God Speak”.
Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak
My eyes filled up when I realized this church leader was praying that God would speak at Real Life. That God’s truth would fill the high school gym we call “church”, that His Spirit would pour down like rain, and that His name would be proclaimed. I’m grateful for humble leaders who love God’s word. I’m challenged by their example, and by the song’s lyrics–especially this line: “The last thing I need is to be heard, but to hear what You would say.” God, too often I only listen to myself. My wants, my selfishness. But God, let me hear Your truth. Word of God, speak!
“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” James 3:16
This verse is part of a passage that my friend and I are memorizing together. Have I mentioned that James is the book I would vote Most Likely to be Cut From My Bible? It’s so challenging to me! The more I work to learn this verse, the more selfish ambition I see.
And believe me, it isn’t pretty.
I don’t mean to brag, but my talents at selfish ambition are impressive. I can mentally replay a compliment long after it has been paid, and pat myself on the back again and again. Sometimes I will truly intend something for God’s glory, but if I’m praised, I inwardly take the credit. I can also manipulate situations to paint myself in the best light. In fact, I’m so good at making myself appear humble that sometimes I even convince myself. But it’s still selfish ambition, and God still hates it.
More from James:
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you….Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:6-8, 10)
God, I don’t mean to brag. Truly. But sometimes…often…I do. I have so much of me in me that I get on my own nerves. And yet, I want to follow James’ instruction. Deep down, I do want to submit to You. I want to come so near to You—so intimately, Father!—that I will desire nothing else but Your glory.
So God, please make my heart pure. Wash me clean of any selfish ambition until I am sincerely and constantly humble before You. Let Your name be famous, not mine. Let me grow Your kingdom, not mine. You, not I, are God. YOU, NOT I, ARE GOD.
Thank You for Your undeserved grace, and for coming near. I love Your name, Lord. Amen.
Well, I can’t count. Tomdg noted that I’d talked about four Exodus posts, not just three–and he’s right. He is also from England (The U.K.? Great Britain? What is it?), so I must conclude that Brits are better at math. Not surprising, really. Thanks, Tom, and I must confess that I always read your comments out loud in my best Colin Firth accent.
Anyway, Tom has written very well about God’s name, I AM, here. Let’s pretend like it’s my fourth Exodus post, shall we? Tom, thanks for your great thoughts, for your help with math, and, most of all, for David Beckham.
(*Yes, more Exodus. I THINK this is the last one, but my church just began a whole series on Moses, so I’m not making any promises.)
Take a (brief) look at my little (photo-shopped) profile picture (which is purposely minus my mid-section). You see a 32-year-old blonde with giant black glasses. What you don’t see, however, is that, behind the smile, Amy Storms is also fearful, judgmental, and obsessive with addictive tendencies. And I have flabby arms and dry heels. Yes, I’m quite the picture.
So who are you? What’s your name? How do you describe yourself–your truest self? When you aren’t wearing make-up or trying to impress people, who are you?
A bigger question: Who is God? What’s His name? How do you describe Him? A few typical answers:
“God is a judge, rather grouchy, waiting to pounce on me when I mess up—and even when I don’t.”
“God is intolerant of people who aren’t ____________. (Fill in the blank.)
“God doesn’t even exist.”
But what is God really like—His truest self? One of my favorite stories in scripture comes from Exodus 33-34. Moses boldly requested, “Show me your glory!” and God passed by Moses to let him experience as much of His incredible goodness as he could endure. As He passed, God told Moses His name. God described Himself.
He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin….” (Exodus 34:6-7)
What is God truly like? Loving, compassionate, gracious, and faithful. Lately I’ve been hanging on—at times for dear life–to the truths in God’s name. And incidentally, I’ve noticed that the more I focus on God’s description, the more my self-description changes, too. Isn’t that how it should be? When we know God well, and take His name, His traits become our own.
Lord, let me be loving and gracious, slow to anger and forgiving. I want to reflect You well, so that others will know Your name. Thank You for Jesus, and for the life that is mine in his name. Amen.
Last night the kids made Christmas cards out of construction paper and basically anything else we had around the house. They worked hard, decorating the cards with shepherds, angels, stars and even one self-portrait. (Nathan’s self-portrait. Of course.)
Anne proudly called me over to see her masterpiece. (It was too heavy with wet glue to bring it to me.) She had drawn a stable, and added nativity stickers for the manger scene. An angel sticker flew above it all, with a giant speech balloon drawn from his mouth: “YROLG TO THE NEWBORN KING!”
Yrolg. It took me a second to decipher. I thought maybe she’d picked up internet lingo somewhere, like “LOL” or “IDK, my BFF Jill.” Of course she meant glory, and she’d written from right to left, as she often does. She’s not dyslexic–just Hebrew.
I praised her work and wondered silently if all that glue would dry by Christmas. But later I thought again about her word. Yrolg. Glory.
“Glory” is a churchy word we toss around frequently, but we ought not take it so lightly. To give God “glory” is to applaud Him; we ascribe glory to Him because He is worth it. Glory can also describe God’s very likeness. Remember in A Charlie Brown Christmas, when Linus read, “…and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid….”? He meant that the shepherds saw God’s likeness–so perfect and majestic that it literally shone.
Once I heard Beth Moore say that glory means “to make God recognizable” and “to give God recognition”. So when you and I “glorify” God, we are honoring Him and showing others what He is like. Oh, I want to do this! I want to make God recognizable in everything: speech that is both true and gracious, an attitude of humility and contentment, a heart filled with compassion and forgiveness. In all these ways, Lord, let me reflect You!
Unfortunately, the portrait I paint of God is a poor representation. With all the ugliness in my heart and mind–the anger, the deceit, the arrogance–God isn’t recognizable at all. Sometimes I even portray the exact opposite of who He truly is; I give Him yrolg, not glory. And most often, like Nathan’s card, I make a giant self-portrait. I’m wrapped up in my own ego, and I glorify myself instead of God.
Moses veiled his face after he encountered God, because he literally shone with glory. And Paul told the Corinthians that we “reflect the Lord’s glory”, even as we’re “being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory….” Wow! So then, the nearer I draw to God, the more accurately I will represent Him. And as I make God recognizable to others, I become more and more like Him in the process.
A simple but huge prayer: God, I want to make You known. I want to bring You glory.