Identify!

clouds-sky-0057

There are times when we don’t quite believe who God says we are. But that never changes who we are or the plans He has for us.

There are even times when we put a lot of energy into making excuses and explaining to God why we aren’t who He says we are. But that doesn’t change anything either.

Case in point: Exodus chapter 3.

A man named Moses finds himself in a conversation with God, who informs him that he, Moses, will be the one to go bring the Israelites out of Egypt. He is going to be the voice that frees six hundred thousand men and their families from slavery.

Moses’ response?

  • “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh…” (3:11)
  • “[But] If I come to the people of Israel …and they ask me ‘who sent you?’ what do I say then?” (3: 13, paraphrased)
  • “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice…” (4:1)
  • “I have never been eloquent…I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (4:10)
  • “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (4:13)

With each comment, God continues to explain how He has chosen Moses, how He will influence the Israelites to listen to Moses, how He will enable Moses to handle whatever is ahead, how He will display His power through Moses, how He defines who Moses is and He has decided Moses is the man for the job.

But Moses responds with more excuses. Moses simply refused to buy it. He was sure he was a nobody, and that the best place for him was right where he was, in obscurity taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep.

So finally, in 4:14-16 God essentially says “Fine. Your brother Aaron will go with you and he’ll do the talking. Does that make you happy?” (My personal interpretation, of course…I’m pretty sure none of that was in the original Hebrew text.)

But here’s the rub  – pay close attention now – because if you read through the next 9 chapters of Exodus, in all the interactions that took place with Pharaoh, not once do you read “And Aaron said unto Pharaoh…

The only place we see Aaron taking the lead is when they first talk to the Israelites (4:30). From there on out, Moses is the point man.

To me, this is significant, because it is one of the starkest examples in scripture of what Bob Perdue and others refer to as the concept of the true self.  It says “You are who God says you are, not necessarily who you think you are.”

As much as we try to hedge and detour and deflect and make excuses, God knows who we really are. He knows because He defines who we really are.

Our maneuvering, our excuses, our doubts, what we think we’re capable of or not capable of – none of that trumps what God planned from the beginning of time.

Our mistakes, our past, our faults or failures – none of that disqualifies us from what God planned from the beginning of time.

The Creator of the universe, designated you for a purpose and then designed you to meet that purpose.

Trust Him, you’ll find that the person he designed you to be is exactly what brings deep fulfillment, more so than your highest personal aspirations. (I’m pretty sure that in the end Moses knew that what he accomplished was a whole lot more fulfilling than another 40 years of tending sheep).

So stop making excuses and believe who God says you are.

He knows what He’s talking about.

 

Advertisements

Leave It at the Cross

Religion  266

“You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross.” – MercyMe, Dear Younger Me

This line strikes home for me every time I hear it. Because I look back at things that I know I shouldn’t have carried beyond the cross and see the pain it brought and the problems it caused.

I think to some extent all of us have things that we try to carry beyond the cross.

We talk about turning things over to Jesus. We nod confidently and agree there is nothing that He can’t carry for us.

But still there are things we try to carry ourselves.  We plant our feet firmly, heave it up on our shoulders, and trudge forward, one laborious step at a time.

Maybe it’s because we feel like it’s not something that’s worthy of turning over to God – it’s too trivial to bother Him with.

Or maybe it’s too ugly and we don’t want to expose it to our relationship with Him – like somehow revealing the thing (which He already knows about) will somehow taint His impression of us.

Or maybe someone has convinced us that God’s grace doesn’t quite cover that.

But Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

He didn’t say “all who labor and are heavy laden with big things.” Or “all who labor and are heavy laden unless your burden crosses this line.” He said “all.”

So no matter the size, shape, appearance, or form of your burden, bring it to Him. You were never meant to carry it beyond the cross.

Alcoholism? Bring it. Pornography? Bring it. Unwanted homosexual desires? Bring it. Bad temper? Bring it. Guilt from a painful past? Bring it. Hurt caused by someone else? Bring it. Drug problems, gambling addictions, trust issues, gossip, hate, lying, cheating, jealousy, judgmentalism – whatever form your flaw or your struggle takes…bring it to His cross.

And leave it there. Don’t carry it one step further.

When we try to carry it ourselves, bigger problems result. Struggles become addictions. Secrets become complex networks of deceit. Angry outbursts become abusive behavior. One more compulsive bet becomes financial ruin.

The scenarios are exhaustive (and exhausting!).

Trust me, carrying whatever it is ourselves and trying to keep it stuffed inside only leads to more (and deeper) hurt. I know. I’ve been there.

So make the commitment now to leave everything at the foot of the cross. Everything…and live free!

p.s. – since I mentioned it, take a listen to this song if you have time. It’s worth it.

Duck Test

Birds 0010

He was the leader of the world’s only superpower. He had subdued enemies, conquered lands, captured cities, built spectacular palaces, and oversaw a thriving economy.

And then one day things went sideways. And before it was all over he could add to his accomplishments adultery, treachery, betrayal, and murder.

His name was David, King of Israel. Most people know the story: He slept with and impregnated his neighbor’s wife, and after a hastily planned scheme to cover up the consequences failed, he orchestrated her husband’s death.

You don’t have to agree with David’s actions to understand how they came about. Hopefully we’ve not been down the path that led to adultery and murder, but we’ve all been down paths where we would never have ventured with a clear head.

But here’s what I want you to see about David: When he finally came to himself, David called it like it was.

David’s prayer following the fallout from his actions is the prayer of a broken man who was done with maneuvering and making excuses.

See, we need to be honest with God in our confessions.

We need to learn to say simply, “I sinned against You.”

I didn’t ‘have a weak moment.’ I didn’t ‘make a mistake.’ I didn’t ‘falter’ or ‘stumble’ or ‘lose a battle.’

These phrases are accurate, and in proper perspective can help us press forward. Because our weaknesses combined with the barrage of influences we face, sometimes lead to bad choices. We can’t live a perfect life, and God will never give up on us (even after all this, David’s character is still immortalized as “A man after God’s own heart”).

But the duck test says “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck”

Like David, we need to learn to be raw and honest with God and say,

“For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:3-4).

When he says “against You only have I sinned,” he’s not dismissing the fact that other people were hurt by his sin.  In this case Uriah, Bathsheba, the unborn baby, and many others close to them, were hurt terribly by his choices.

But it was primarily God against whom he sinned.

Every sin is first and foremost an offense against a holy God.

So let’s be careful to maintain balance.  We can’t spend our time condemning ourselves for our mistakes, wailing and wallowing in our filth, expecting ourselves to live the perfect life and never slip up.  But we also can’t use our flawed humanity to smooth over or minimize the fact that we hurt God and others by our actions.

Living like new means constantly renewing our mind and spirit through self-inspection, confession, and trusting that God lifts the penalty for that sin from us.

It’s “Freedom 360” – freedom from excuse-making and freedom from condemnation.

It’s a package deal.

What Lies Within

Household 366

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:6-7

Each of us has a gift – a message to carry to others about what God has done for us. But often it lies dormant because we don’t make the conscious effort to stir it up and put it to use.  Fear causes us to bury it or hold it back.

Sometimes that fear is the result of guilt and shame, feeling we’re unworthy or disqualified.  

Sometimes it’s due to doubt and low self-worth, a certainty that nobody really wants to hear anything we have to contribute.

Sometimes there’s just a feeling of inadequacy, that we don’t have the skills or talents to properly deliver our message. 

And sometimes it is the fear of others – what will they think or say? Will they think less or differently of me? Will my boldness stir up anger or resentment, or blow the fragile lid off of latent bitterness and unforgiveness? Will people make assumptions about my motives?

But God does not intend for that gift to be stagnant and neutralized by fear, no matter what form it takes.  As Paul encouraged Timothy, we are also urged to “stir up the gift of God which is in” us, because “God has not given us a spirit of fear.”  Whatever the source of that fear – guilt, shame, doubt, feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, potential reactions of others – it is not from God.

So what does God give us?  

Power to live larger than our flaws and failures.  With the aid of His Holy Spirit, we have the power to blast through any barriers that will rise before us.  The power to cling to the truth of our real identity in Him, throwing off the labels and the doubts, whatever their source.

Love, the only attribute against which nothing can stand.  Hatred (including self-hatred), doubt (including self-doubt), gossip, lies, labels, accusations, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness…whatever tends to reinforce our chains – all these things eventually crumble in the face of love. Read 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:18. There is nothing in the universe stronger than love.

A sound mind that isn’t riddled with insecurities, hesitancy, or negative labels.  One that knows what He intends for us and steps forward in that knowledge, regardless of what the world or those negative voices inside our heads may think or say. A mind that is renewed (Romans 12:1-2) and confident (Philippians 1:6). 

This is how God intends us to live. Living out the message He has placed within.

Don’t allow your gift to lie dormant any longer. Don’t let the Enemy or anyone else convince you that you are not useful or valid. You are that and so much more – you are a vital part of God’s plan.

 

One. More. Step.

Desert 0221

“But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14

Many of us have been there. That place where we don’t think we can take another step, what feels like the very literal end of our rope.

Maybe you’re there today.

Maybe your own bad decisions have caught up with you. Maybe you’ve finally realized that that habit or addiction has control of you instead of the other way around like you always claimed. Maybe your latest burst of anger has resulted in serious injury to someone. Or maybe your secret sin has been exposed, or that past which you hoped above all hope you could carry to your grave.

Perhaps someone else’s decisions have caught up with you. Maybe a loved one’s secret sin or hidden past or covert addiction has surfaced and tore your world apart. Or a friend’s rush to judgment or outright betrayal has completely knocked the emotional wind out of you. Or possibly you feel as though you’re being crushed under the weight of the rumor mill, unsure if your reputation will ever recover from the roaring and fast-moving wildfires started by a loose tongue.

In writing to the church at Philippi, Paul made it clear that he was always reaching to obtain greater fullness in his relationship with Christ. And in so doing, both the achievements and mistakes of the past were of no use to him.

“Forgetting those things which are behind…”

That meant every bit of knowledge he’d acquired to make himself acceptable to God, every good deed he’d done to achieve a godly appearance, every shred of righteousness that he’d accumulated.

That also meant every bit of misapplied knowledge that made him unacceptable to God, every bad deed he had done that gave him an ungodly image, and every shred of unrighteousness or fake piety he had donned in his striving after self-made righteousness.

Our past deeds, and others’ past deeds, are just that – past. They have no bearing on our forward walk with Christ. They won’t get us any closer to Him, nor keep us any further from Him. Those things form the definition of self that relies on lies and labels and false identity.

“…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God.”

Pressing toward the goal involves looking forward, defining ourselves by God’s call and who He says we are. It means constantly, moment by moment, putting all those things which want to define us behind, and stepping forward with the knowledge of what truly defines us.

Particularly if you’re in the midst of the storm, this can be a step-to-step exercise. Possibly all you can do right now is pick up your foot and take one more step. That’s okay. Paul didn’t say that forgetting those things that are behind is an easy endeavor. It takes work, practice, resolve. But that one more step will get you that much further along in your journey.

So wherever you are this moment: take heart, know that God is there, remember what defines you (it’s what’s ahead, not what’s behind), and step out.

The walk will get easier. Your strength will build. The resistance will fade. And one day you’ll look around to find God did bring you through it after all.