Identity

Identity…

When you hear or see this word, what does it mean to you?  For many, it is who you are, which could include your name, address, livelihood, etc.  There are many things that identify you today.  How you look, act, carry yourself, or your personality…all of those could be used to identify you.

Your family…

Your friends…

Your job…

There are many things that people use to identify you, but the question is this, “How do you identify yourself?”

What sparked this thought process in me is the realization that everyone that you come in contact with on a daily basis knows a different version of you. Your parents know you in one way, while a sibling may know you differently, and your friends may have another viewpoint.

As I thought about this, it became clear to me that many times we get lost in translation, because we begin to try and become all of the things that others identify us as…or even worse, we are the different identities, depending on the situation, circumstance, or present company.

This is a dangerous way to be. I believe that we can find our true identity and it comes through our personal relationship with Christ.  When we center ourselves in Him, he begins to form our identity as it relates to the Kingdom of God…and through that molding and forming us into His identity.

Romans 8:28-30 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.”

We are created to be conformed to the image of Christ…and that can only come through a developed relationship with Him…personally. Through this identification process, God will pick up the broken pieces of our lives, and he will call us to a greater path, justifying us and offering grace for our sins, and glorifying us for His kingdom!

So maybe, instead of trying to identify as all the things we think the world around us will like, we should work on developing our relationship with Christ; through that, allowing Him to create an identity in us that will develop us into the instrument He can use for His glory.  Find who you are in Him, not who you want Him to be in you.

Advertisements

For God So Loved

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:16-21, ESV

These words speak volumes to each of us who follow Christ. One of the things that I find many doing is stopping at 3:16 but never going any farther. Many stop at simple belief, but Jesus continued on to tell us that there is more than just believing. Scripture tells us that even the demons believe.

Jesus, in these words to Nicodemus, tells us all that He did not come to the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He elaborates on this by continuing the conversation and explaining that those who believe are not condemned. He then says some of the key words to our Christian faith in verse 19, saying, “And this is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” What does this mean?

It means, when someone is living in sin, they love the darkness, they love to be around others who live like they do, those who are also in the darkness, those who will not condemn them. Light has a way of exposing that which is hidden in the dark, and when the light is revealed all sins are made known.

Today, we must examine what we are doing. We have to realize that we are not being what God has called us to be when we live outside of the light. Christ is the light, and he has called us to be in the light.

James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James continues on by telling us that we must be hearers and doers of the word, not hearers only. There are many who hear and believe the word, but there are few who do and truly believe the word. So many stop at believing that Jesus is the Christ, but they forget that being a believer of the Word means that they are putting faith into action each day.

Are you putting your faith into action today? Can others see Christ in you? Are you living in the light or the dark today?

Examine your heart today. I encourage you to be more than just a simple hearer of the word, but to embrace what Christ is offering today through our ‘doing’ the word. Be more than a hearer today. Let God expose you today so that you can be all he needs you to be.

Confidence in Troubled Times

“Lord, how my foes increase! There are many who attack me. Many say about me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep, I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me, on every side. Rise up, Lord! Save me, my God! You strike all my enemies on the cheek, You break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; may Your blessing be on Your people.”  – Psalm 3 (HCSB)

Each day we should begin with a confident and unwavering approach to the day ahead.  As we see in this Psalm of David, God will never abandon us, especially in our times of need.  David was feeling as if the world was against him, and he mentions this in the first few verses.  David states, “Many say about me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’” (v. 2)

David felt pressure, he felt like he was under attack from all sides, even feeling as if his enemies were increasing on a daily basis.  How many times do we feel this way? We feel as if everything in life is going against us and we fail to see what He is doing for us.  We can take a lesson from David in that we can approach things in our lives the way he did in this Psalm.

Our response should be like David’s, “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain.” (v. 3-4)

If we can adapt this into our thinking, we will see a change in attitude and perspective as we go through our days.  When we feel things are against us, when we feel we are being betrayed by those around us, and when we feel that God is far from us, we have to renew our thinking and trust that God is by our side.

Paul also adapted this thinking into his own life and ministry, in 2 Timothy 4:16-18, “At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me.  May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the proclamation might be fully made through me, and all the Gentiles might hear. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil work and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever! – Amen.”

Today, I encourage you to find the courage deep within yourselves to stand on these truths.  No matter what you are facing today, if you will put your focus into this type of trust, it will amaze you how much easier things will seem to get.  God wants nothing but the best for us, His best, which can become our best if we put all trust in Him.

Sometimes we may wonder why things happen the way that they do and today may not have been an easy one, but these are the days that we can see God working the most.  Take the time to trust Him and thank Him for what he has done for you.  “To God be the Glory, great things He hath done.”

Give what is Due

For whatever reason, many today, as has been the course of history, try to catch Christians in a moment in which they can discredit them of their claims.  This is much like what we see in Matthew 22 when the Pharisees found a moment of what they perceived as weakness for Jesus and attempted to discredit him and cause uproar.

In Matthew 22 we see Jesus telling a parable of a wedding feast, encouraging the people in attendance with a story of a King who was willing to let any come to the wedding feast of his son after the original guests of the wedding were no-shows.  This story that Jesus told included that a man who did come did not come dressed for the wedding and was cast out as well.  In verse 15, we see the Pharisees attempt to cause uproar and find reason to discredit Jesus.

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” – Matthew 22:15-22 (ESV)

They ask Jesus whether you should pay taxes to Caesar, and Jesus makes a bold statement that we must dig deeper into to see what He was really saying.  Jesus asks for a coin, and turns the question back to them asking who is depicted on the coin.  The answer comes from the men, “Caesar;” Jesus then replies for them to give Caesar what is Caesar’s and give God what is God’s.

What Jesus was saying here was that the coin has the picture of Caesar on it so give it to him, but upon further look, Jesus was making the same statement of us in the second part of His answer.

Jesus was bringing it back to God in a way that we often miss in this account from scripture.  In Genesis we see that God says, “Let us make man in our own image.”  Jesus is reminding them of this when he says, “Give God what is God’s.”  He was saying, you bear the image of God, so in the same way you should give to Caesar that which is his and pay your taxes; you should give to God your life because you were created in His image.

I challenge you today in this.  Take a look at your life and see if you are living as you should.  Are you giving to God what is His?  Are you living a life that exemplifies Christ and embraces the image in which you were created?  As we see here, we were created in the image of God, so just as Jesus said to give to Caesar that which is his, we must do the same with that which is God’s.  That which belongs to God is each one of us, because we are created in His image, we are created with His likeness upon us, and our lives belong to Him.  Live today like you are the image of God.

That’s Life…or is It?

“That’s Life!”

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this statement being used as a passive statement dealing with one of the most difficult situations someone will ever deal with in their lives….Bullying…

As the years have passed, I’ve realized that this statement comes in quite a few forms…”That’s Life”, “That’s Politics”, “Kids will be Kids”, “That’s just how he/she is”…

Lately we have seen it everywhere! From the top of our government down to our school children…and it has become an epidemic that has to stop!  It results in division between groups, families, and has led to suicide and murder…in fact…it is as harmful as a loaded gun in the wrong hands.

You get the picture.

Life is difficult…we all know that…but why do we feel that making it more difficult for others makes ours somehow easier? Sure, we see others going through things, but what I have begun to notice is that life isn’t easy for anyone…no, some just deal with it better than others.

In life, you come across people who let you down, disappoint, and betray you.  Many times people don’t say or do the right thing.  Maybe they have treated you in an unkind fashion or bullied you. What can you do in those situations when people aren’t treating you the way you think they should? What can you do when you feel like they are treating you in an undeserved fashion?

Matthew 5:44 gives us some insight into this…”Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

Sound Impossible? We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who are persecuting us.  That goes against everything the world tries to tell us is right. Even our nature is to attempt to argue or prove that we are being wronged, or in some cases, we feel the need to get even.  But, I say it again, the Bible says to love our enemies.

How is that done? How do we love someone who isn’t doing or saying nice things to or about you?

How?

Romans 5:5 says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

God fills us with His love.  It’s a simple lesson we were taught at a young age…1 John 4:7-8…”Beloved, Let us love one another! For Love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…He who loves not, knows not God; For GOD is LOVE!”

This is GREAT news for us!  We do not have to love our enemies on our own! God gives us the love to love them…God doesn’t ask us to do something that he doesn’t give us the power to do! Loving enemies can be a difficult thing…but God is love!

It doesn’t matter what a person has done to you.  It doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been hurt by someone’s actions…you still have a responsibility to love them in return. But God will help…he will give you the love to do it! It’s up to you to believe it and tap into the power that God gives; loving others who have wronged you can be difficult…but with God’s help it is more than possible.

Trust Him today to guide you through the process…It’s not a passive thing.  Words and actions hurt, especially when they feel undeserved…but maybe we should all take a look at how we treat one another? There is no justification for being a bully!

Empty Promises

With the celebration of Easter behind us…as we move forward following the Resurrection of our Savior…I find myself thinking…(I know, be careful)…

But what I have been wondering is, “Why do we only celebrate the resurrection one day a year?”

I’m not saying this is something everyone does…but it is a common theme in our world today…we say we serve a risen Savior, but we only serve Him on a day when we celebrate His rising….

But it is with this in mind that I want to take a moment and list out the empty promises that were made that day when Christ arose!

1 – The Empty Tomb was not there as proof that He was risen…it was there as proof that He wasn’t there…but there was still a question, “Where is He?”

2 – The Witnesses we see in the scripture, as well as the sightings of Jesus Himself are the evidence that He had risen as He said He would.

3 – The Empty Grave Clothes offered further evidence that He was not stolen but had risen…because who would take the time to fold clothes if they were stealing the body?

There are many other reasons that we could look at within the story to see…reasons on why it happened the way that it did…the significance of certain actions that were taken…but I’m sure that many have already heard them…but I do want to say that the “Empty” promises that God gave us that Resurrection morning are promises that will stand the test of time.

Jesus had promised he would raise on the 3rd day and he did…He conquered sin and death and defeated the devil once and for all….but that’s only half the battle.

Where do you stand? Do you push aside the devil’s advances daily? Or, do you give in to his guidance? Are you standing on the Word of God, or are you allowing yourself to forget the gifts of God?

This is where we are as a society…we have created a gospel that is inclusive of sin and we have begun to accept the unacceptable in our behavior.  But we must take our lives under consideration of the scripture as our guidance…if we will base ourselves in Him, we will see blessings…doesn’t mean it will be a cake walk….but it does mean that we will have opportunity to see great things happen in our lives.

I encourage you today…to trust God and pursue Him passionately….and in that you might just find that He will reveal to you a plan that will guide you along the path to His redemption and empty promises.

The Final Week

Jesus and his disciples were making their way into Jerusalem when Jesus asked a couple of his followers to go ahead and find a donkey and her colt and bring them to him.  The instructions were simple…if anyone approaches and asks what you are doing, tell them, “The Lord needs them.”

Jesus then rides the donkey into Jerusalem to fulfill the scripture and the thing about it all is that the people were cheering, they were excited, they were welcoming in their Messiah as they had been following his ministry for the past three years and had seen all the healing he had done, they had heard his messages, they had followed him from town to town.

This same group of people would less than a week later be the same group who would call for the freedom of Barabbas and the death of Jesus by way of crucifixion.  What happened to cause the change of heart? Why did the people turn?

The truth is, they were scared…much as we are in our day.  They were afraid for their lives if they didn’t join the crowd and call for the crucifixion of the one they had cheered just a week earlier.  We do it as well, because we are so scared of how people will view us.  We are scared that they might judge us based on their worldly views, but we should not let things keep us from living out the life that we are called to.

Church, we must not let the world tell us how to live…we must live like Christ…we must walk in his steps and we must follow the path that he has set for us.  We may not know all the plans that God has for us, but if we live according to faith we can know that his plans are much better than our own.  Jesus tells us to take up our own cross and follow him daily, and today, we must do just that.

I encourage you during this Easter season, take a long, hard look at your life and see how you are living.  Are you loving like Jesus? Are you living like Jesus? Are you serving like Jesus? Are you winning others to the Kingdom of God? Are you showing the world that it has no hold on you? Are you living up to the name Christian?

It may be Friday in your life, but Sunday is coming!

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 2:7, (NKJV)