Challenge, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Parents

Your Destiny

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 28

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 

I John 3:1

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. Psalm 139:17

There is this scripture: “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of the sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!  (Psalms 139:17, 18 NLT)

It is difficult for us to conceive that God thinks about you and me.  That His thoughts toward us outnumber the grains of sand.  The God who moves the wind, who brings the spring rain, who blankets the earth with freshly fallen snow and who named every star known and unknown to man also knows every breath you breathe.  He knows every detail of your life.  There is no need to ever feel insignificant, small, rejected or less-than anyone or anything because the God of the universe loves you with an everlasting love.  (See Jeremiah 31:3.) 

Pastor Craig Groeschel wrote in his book, Alter Ego, “The way God made you was not by chance or accident.  You are divinely inspired, with his divine intention to guide you.  Once you begin to grasp who you are—and whose you are—you begin to understand why you’re here and what to do.”  You are not an accident!

What has captured your heart?  What is your number one priority in life? The answer to that question will tell you what you value most.  It will tell you where your heart is at in relation to your search for personal identity.  Please remember in this search, your Creator has never given up on you, never rejected you and never has He said that you are too far gone.  He created each of us with a purpose, with a destiny and He is longing, He is waiting for the “big reveal party” in each of our lives.  What potential does He see in you?  Where does He desire to take you?  Where has He called you in life?  These questions all connect to the identity He has placed within you.

To follow God’s pathway, we must first know Him, know that He is good.  We must trust Him and we must identify Him as our Lord and King.  He desires nothing between us; nothing to hold us back.  However, there is an area, a major area that I often see holding us back: that area is parent wounds.

It is imperative to engage in healing steps from our wounds because nothing affects the present like our past.  While we addressed this somewhat earlier in the book, taking it a step deeper will allow us to fully enter into the identity that our heavenly Father has for us.  Here’s why: we will most certainly struggle with God as our Father, a parent, if we still struggle with our earthly parents.  If we have not forgiven those wounds from our past, they will block our relationships in the present and the future, especially with God as a heavenly Father.  Throughout scripture, God uses family language: father, mother, son, daughter and children.  He created the family as the basis of every culture on earth.  It is this structure that also naturally continues the human race.  But all too often, those family relationships can provoke some of our greatest and deepest wounds.

From the book, Transforming the Prodigal Soul, author Scott Prickett writes, “Bad choices are driven by wounded souls.  I helped this young woman connect the dots between the hurt arising from abandonment by her father and her use of drugs to mask the pain.  We worked backwards…to the lie regarding her worth.  In the wound of her father’s abandonment, the lie that she was worthless and unlovable took root.  It became her truth, her identity.”

Have you allowed a past hurt to become your reality today? It can be different. In tomorrow’s devotion we will confront this area of our lives.

Question for reflection:

When you read that God thinks about you, what do you hear from Him?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity

Is Your Identity for Sale? II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 27

I am more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37

I have been given fullness in Christ. Colossians 2:10

The gospel of John chapter 4 gives us an amazing story of insight of Jesus.  It’s a story of a woman at a well.  She had been married five times!  She had repeatedly tried to find security and identity in men. Plus, Jesus revealed to her that the man she was presently living with was not her husband.  Jesus does not say one condemning word.  He did say that drinking water will make you thirsty again, “but whoever drinks the water He gives them will never thirst again…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   

When the Samaritan woman asked for this water, what was Jesus’ answer?  He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  Do you notice the dialogue going on?  “Give me the water; go get your husband.”  Jesus tells her He has living water with which she will never thirst again and she yearns for it.  

What would you do, but ask for it?  He does not answer her request in the typical way.  He puts His finger directly on the drawback in her life, the issue, her place of missing the mark, her one area that is out of control: the need of looking to men for security, identity, emotional and physical needs.  She then attempts to redirect Him in verses 19 and 20.  Jesus makes it clear that one day all will worship in spirit and in truth.  Then in verse 26, Jesus reveals Himself to her, not in a parable, not in an allegorical story, but simply saying, “I am He.”  How often was He that straightforward about who He was?

Jesus knew that she had been selling her identity to men, but He also knew an encounter with the One who could give her living water, water that would quench her insecurity and her identity thirst forever, would radically change her life.  I will never believe this meeting was accidental or a random encounter.  It was a sovereign confrontation, a meeting that was orchestrated by heaven itself because of the love of God for that one single woman at the well.

To you and to me He says, “I am He.”  I am your living water.  I am your security.  I am your identity.  I am your foundation for relationship so that your neediness issues can be resolved.  I am your healthy boundary keeper.  I am your esteem.  I am your beginning and your end.  I am your employer, your real-estate agent, your banker and your lawyer.  I am your retirement, your health insurance, your accountant.  I am your father and your mother.  I am your security and I am your identity.  I am He.

Have you found Him to be all these things? It’s okay to be at the well, but it is not okay to leave The Well still thirsty. He is present to quench your thirst regardless of how you came to the well or where your heart was at when you first encountered Jesus. He speaks to you today, “I am He.”

Question for reflection:

When you consider Him as the “I am” in your life, what do you know to be true about your identity?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

You are Uniquely You

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 24

I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Ephesians 1:3

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 6:19

Every decision we make is made through our past experiences, our present desires and thoughts or our future wants or needs.  God has created us with the capacity to think within all three of these realms or dimensions.  The memory capacity of our brains is simply amazing, as it provides for us the knowledge needed from past experience for decision making today.

Just imagine if we lacked memory.  We would not know how to drive home from work today.  We would not know or be able to identify our spouse in the morning when we wake up.  We would have to start each new day reading a memory log from the day before: who we are, where we live, where we work or go to school.  Life would function so differently.  We can conclude memory is not only necessary for life, it provides so much wonderful meaning to life.

The Bible says what we sow, we reap (See Galatians 6:7, 8.).  What I sow today, determines the return I will have on that seed tomorrow.  If I desire a certain crop in the future, then I have to sow that seed today.  Not one farmer expects to reap where they have not sown, but every farmer fully expects to reap where they have sown.  You may expect to be a millionaire one day in the future, but if you do nothing and place no effort toward that goal today, you will never see it.  It is easy to then become deceived into thinking you’ll win the lottery or inherit that million, but without earning it.  The scriptures describe this type of gain as ill-gotten treasure.  (Proverbs 10: 2)

Do you want to live in health in your latter years?  Take measures today to exercise and eat healthy because when reaching tomorrow, today will be the past.  Do you desire to be free of pain from your past?  Then do something about it today and forgive those who have hurt you and bless those who have cursed you.  

Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of cavities as a child.  My family did not use toothpaste with fluoride in it.  Fluoride wasn’t even marketed in those days.  My trips to the dentist were fear-filled and excruciating.  Today, I pay the price of dealing with crowns to save my teeth.  My past dental care affects my present oral condition and will continue to affect my future.  

You just cannot separate these three: the past, the present and the future.  But you can start making decisions in alignment with God’s word and His direction for your life.  A better decision today means a better outcome tomorrow.  A destructive decision today means certain pain in our future.

For example, are you a worrier?  I mean, does your mind immediately go to the exercise of worry when an unknown is surfacing?  Or, is your response to a present worrisome issue one of going to your heavenly Father in prayer and trust?  One response is trusting and relying upon yourself and your capacity to worry (needing to solve the issue yourself) and the other is trusting God and His capacity to intervene both in the here-and-now and the future.  Philippians 4: 6,7 reminds us to not be anxious and if we’ll petition God along with giving thanks, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.  Peace does not follow worry; it follows prayer and trusting God, literally giving our worry to God.  (See Psalm 37: 1-8.)

Question for reflection:

If you find yourself to be a worrier, how does your worry affect your present-day life?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Issues of the Day

Sex and Gender ID II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 22

I am a saint and loved by God. Romans 1:7

I am accepted by Christ. Romans 15:7

I have died to sin…and alive to God. Romans 6:2, 11

What would it look like for someone who is experiencing sexual brokenness or gender dysphoria to become a follower of Jesus?  Author Andrew Walker says, “It would be very, very hard.  And yet, at the same time, it would be experientially and eternally worthwhile.”  He says that each of us have a cross to bear.  That may include cancer, undesired singleness or any number of issues.  

In Matthew 16:24, 25, Jesus told us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Andrew writes, “To carry a cross means to deny ourselves – to lose whatever defined and directed our lives before we met our Maker, came to him as our Savior and began to follow him as our Lord.”  

Paul the Apostle, in pleading with God to take away an issue in his life, wrote about it this way in II Corinthians 12: 9, 10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Not one of us asks for this cross.  We do not seek a cross to carry.  We like a carefree and comfortable life to live and we abhor the uncomfortable.  As I travel the world, I have seen the slum where three quarters of a million people live in Kenya.  I have seen the poverty and the lack of any governmental control in Haiti. I have been in places where overcontrolling governments say that Christianity cannot be openly practiced.  These believers live daily with these crosses and they take them on willingly, as normality, without complaint.  

Henri Nouwen wrote, “The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  The power of darkness around us is strong, and our world finds it easier to manipulate self-rejecting people than self-accepting people.  But when we keep listening attentively to the Voice calling us the Beloved, it becomes possible to live our brokenness, not as a confirmation of our fear that we are worthless, but as an opportunity to purify and deepen the blessing that rests upon us.  Physical, mental, or emotional pain lived under the blessing is experienced in ways radically different from physical, mental, or emotional pain lived under the curse.”

What are you waiting for?  We each have a choice to make.  We choose to submit our sexuality to God and His plan or we do not.  We take a hard stand and choose His way or we cast off restraint and go full-on our way.  Either God’s grace is sufficient for each of us no matter what we deal with or we determine it is not.  Either way, we are left with the consequences of our decisions.  Deciding God’s way may mean having a certain cross to bear, but it will not last forever and it will lead us into an eternity of God’s pleasure.  He is preparing a place for us and He longs for each one of us to choose His way in order to enter into that place.  (See John 14:1-3.)

Question for reflection:

Can you identify any cross that you are presently bearing?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity

Sex and Gender ID

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 21

I am loved by Christ and freed from my sins. Revelation 1:5

I am free from all condemnation. Romans 8:1

I am kept from falling and presented without fault. Jude 24

You and I were created by God to live in a Genesis one and two world.  What does that mean?  Genesis chapters one and two are the only chapters, the only words written of what life was like before “the curse.” This curse became the course of each and every life born thereafter.

Did you know that in these first two chapters of Genesis the Bible describes God’s relationship with man as literally meeting with him, walking with him and conversing with him on a daily basis?  Every day God’s presence would meet with Adam and God would instruct him about the garden.  In those conversations God would personally feel Adam’s loneliness on the earth.  God would soon “fashion” a woman, flesh of Adam’s flesh and bone of his bone.  It was here, in this garden, in this moment that God created something we call marriage; “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:24) Marriage was and is a creation act of God, not an act of man.

At the same time, the seas were teaming with fish and the air with birds.  God said that the land was to produce all kinds of livestock and wild animals.  There was an endless variety of plant life and God placed Adam in a garden to care for it and to watch it multiply.  There were no weeds, no bugs, no diseases and no harmful or dangerous conditions.  The world and everything in it were perfect.

Then comes Genesis three, the chapter which describes “the fall of man.”  It is here that deception, fear, disease, insecurity, disobedience and the loss of our God-given identity entered into the world.  Life on this earth would be forever changed by hearts that wanted something more than they already had in the garden.  Adam and Eve longed for a knowledge that was not theirs to have.  God was trying to protect us from ourselves, but also in His wisdom, He gave us free choice and we chose wrongly.

God created us, gave us birth and blessed us to live in a Genesis one and two world, but we chose a fallen world, a world of disobedience, death and missing the mark of God’s ideal for His creation. Ever since this time there has been a rebellion in our hearts and we are left to pursue what we think is right in our own eyes.  (See Proverbs 12:15; 21:2)

Being involved in years of counseling has afforded me the opportunity to hear plenty of Genesis three horror stories from real live persons.  These are persons who have suffered deeply from the actions of others or from their own choices.  I can still recall Lisa’s story that led to severe anorexia.  While her story and pain were true, she was now acting out some very self-destructive behavior, starving herself to death.  If I would have sat there in the counseling room and affirmed every feeling that Lisa had, it would have been cruel.  Further, if I would have commented that her self-perception of being obese was right in an effort to validated her feelings, then I would have been extremely unprofessional, dishonest and mean. 

We all struggle with sin.  (See Romans 3:23.) God’s answer is the same to each of us.  He longs to bring His identity to us, but that will not happen as long as we insist on living by and through our feelings.  God’s message to us has always been very clear. As we seek Him and give Him our lives He will create us anew, transforming us into a new creation where the old passes away and the new comes.  (See II Corinthians 5:17.)

Stay tuned, there is more to come on this topic.

Question for reflection:

Do any remnants of a Genesis three world cling to you? How can you move out of bondage into freedom as a new creation?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Men, Pornography, Women

Sexual Brokenness II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 20

For freedom Christ has set me free. Galatians 5:1

I have the mind of Christ. I Corinthians 2:16

God has always said “Yes” to sex because He is the creator of it.  He has some very clear boundaries with that yes because He has our best interests in mind.  We do not have the right to rewrite or change His word according to our feelings.  

In the Old Testament, one of the priest’s areas of responsibility was to “teach [the] people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezekiel 44:23) It seems that ever since the fall of man recorded in Genesis 3, we think we have a better way than God and are out to prove Him wrong, except that we keep getting deeper and deeper into trouble.  We bend the rules further and further away from His moral code, and daily we suffer the consequences of those selfish choices.

Sexual brokenness is a worldwide epidemic, with human sex trafficking as the newest form of slavery to plague our world.  Our insatiable desire for “sexual freedom” has led us right back to slavery in order to feed our base desires.  How much more wicked can our world become than to take fellow human beings, sell them into the sex trade, and then discard them as though they were worthless?  The heart of God surely must be broken over such depravity.

If there is no line drawn for our culture, our nation and our lawmakers, then how do we make any activity illegal or abhorrent, a “crossing over the line”? We need to uphold a standard that establishes that line.  That standard must come from outside of our personal desires and emotions, otherwise it becomes what is right for me and too bad for you.

To add to the tragedy of our day, we have something called pornography.  At one time it was difficult to obtain, as one had to visit seedy places to purchase it.  Today, all we need to do is turn on our phone or computer and, voila, we have any form of destructive, degrading, demeaning and devaluing film that we desire to view.  The incidents of pornography use are decimating today, starting with children in grade school.  It is highly addictive.  It has destroyed individual lives and it has shattered whole families. 

By viewing pornography, you are feeding an industry of sex trafficking, disease and death.  You are destroying your mind, your soul and polluting your spirit.  It takes the sexual gift that God gave to us and perverts it for short-term gratification and lust-filled pleasure.  If you are viewing pornography, you are tearing down any sense of esteem and identity that God is desiring to build within you.  There is nothing redemptive within this sin-filled habit and I appeal to you to seek immediate help so you can leave the grips of this tormentor. 

The Apostle Paul, a man who at one time zealously persecuted Christians, had a dramatic encounter with the living God, and gave his life to Jesus, penned these words with Timothy, his spiritual son and co-laborer for Christ.  He encourages us to press on toward the goal for which Christ took hold of us, to forget what is behind and look ahead.  If at times we find ourselves in disagreement, God will make His truth clear to us if we sincerely desire to hear His voice.  As we posture ourselves with an open heart, set our minds not on our selfish desires or earthly things, He will transform our minds and our bodies so that we can be like Him.

That is our goal: to be like Him; to have His mind.  In all we think, in all we speak, and in all we do, our goal is to be like our Lord and Savior.  He gave His life so that we can walk in sexual freedom in obedience to Him. Let us live knowing that our bodies are temporary, our spirits are eternal, and that He has made a way for us to live with Him eternally. 

Questions for reflection:

Have you been able to identify any sexual brokenness from your history and how can Jesus bring freedom to you?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Healing A Damaged Soul’s Identity II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 18

I am without blemish. Colossians 1:22

I am reconciled to God. II Corinthians 5:18

One day my wife, Mary, who is an RN, came home from work with a smattering of black spots under each of her eyes.  I questioned her about what in the world happened at work.  She told me, “Oh, you know all those white spots, age marks, I had under my eyes?  Well, I had the doctor burn them off.”  I told her I had never seen any white spots but that those black spots were far worse. 

Mary saw those spots every time she looked in the mirror.  Not everyone noticed them, not even her husband, but she did.  We tend to look at a picture of ourselves and see blemishes: the crooked nose, the mole, the scar or the receding hair line. The same is true of our emotional blemishes and past sins.  We “see” and recall our selfish behavior, our sinful sexual exploits and our insecurities.  The evil one even reminds us of them.

Colossians says it this way, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”  (Colossians 1:17-23)

Once again the word of God confirms that it is not what we can do, but what He has already done for us.  We were far from God and our identity was lost in so many unmentionable ways.  We were actually living a life in which we acted as enemies of God, perhaps even cursing His name.  But then through His sacrifice on the cross, He presents us holy, without blemish and free from accusation!

There are two distinctions concerning human connection – godly, as well as ungodly.  We can bond with the good, the godly and with the ungodly.  “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character,” states Paul in I Corinthians chapter fifteen.  (See also Proverbs 22:24, 25.)

This attachment with one another is a connection God created in each of us in order to care for, minister to, be a friend with, counsel, employ, be employed and be married.  We are not islands.  Within our relationships we are honestly walking out Romans 12: 10 – “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  When this love and honor occurs, we are responding as Jesus asked us to respond to each other; it is a positive, healthy, godly soul connection.

But there is a negative, ungodly and unhealthy soul connection which each of us encounter and we must be aware of.  Galatians 5:15 warns us, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”  Soul connections can carry destruction and injury. 

Because you are reconciled to God through Christ His Son, your heavenly Father sees you as without blemish. The next time you look into a mirror, try speaking this very affirmation, “I am without blemish; it’s the way my Father sees me.”

Question for reflection:

Do you carry any negative, ungodly or unhealthy soul connections and how will you break those connections?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, History, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Healing A Damaged Soul’s Identity

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 17

I am the head and not the tail. Deuteronomy 28:13

I am forgiven. I John 2:12

Regardless of what has happened to you in your past, those things do not define who you are today.  Your pain-filled memories, your losses, rejections, embarrassments and shame are all a moment in time.  They are moments that fill you with heartache, unforgiveness and bitterness or they have worked to create a better you.  You have either embraced them as truth and told yourself your worth and value are determined by those things or you have embraced the experience of them, sought healing through them and grown tremendously by allowing them to grow you into a deeper, more forgiving, more grace-filled and more loving, genuine person.

You have been given one life to live on this earth and it’s up to you how you will live it.  If you allow anyone else on earth to determine how you will live, then you have sold yourself to another.  It is God who has given you life and breath, not anyone else. 

Every day people are born and every day people die.  You have been given a gift of life and it’s up to you what you make of it.  You can live in history, the present or in constant hope of a better future; it’s up to you.  

If you choose to live in history, then you most likely are choosing to live in unforgiveness. Unforgiveness gives birth to brokenness, being stuck in life, the loss of freedom, physical illnesses, depression, bitterness, anger, self-pity, self-torment and the like.  Living in unforgiveness is an anguishing way to live life.  It holds us in bondage to others. I believe it was author and speaker Joyce Meyer who said that to hold onto unforgiveness is like drinking poison in hopes that the one who you cannot forgive dies.  It only hurts you.  Unforgiveness is certain death to any sense of wholeness and identity.

Counselees would often say to me, “You have no idea what I have been through” and they were right.  But you will not move forward if you stick with that excuse.  You will be stuck forever in history.  Listen, it is not about what we have been through; it’s about who He is in you for yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Does that mean we are in denial of our past?  No, it does not.  But if you are waiting for an apology from that person who hurt you, you might be waiting all of your life.  That confession may never come. Those tears of sorrow for hurting you might never surface.  Then what?  If you keep waiting, placing your life on hold, you have become a captive of the person or persons who hurt you.  You have empowered them to control your life and your emotions.  You have made them more powerful than yourself and more powerful than God.  You are allowing them to determine who you are and what you are.  

Jesus is as concerned about your future as He is your past and the Holy Spirit desires to move you on.  No one created by God was designed to live life looking backwards, constantly filtering everything that happens today through what happened to them yesterday.

Jesus said that we were to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Have you ever needed forgiveness?  How many persons have you hurt, have you damaged?  Every one of us are in desperate need of forgiveness. We are commanded to live in forgiveness. 

Question for reflection:

Are you in any way stuck in the past, bound to people who have hurt you?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Created to be an Image Bearer III

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 14

Christ is being formed in me. Galatians 4:19

I am being conformed into the likeness of His Son. Romans 8:29

Jesus was surrounded by deception, by false prophets, by religious ones who had selfish goals in mind, by political ones, by criminals and by many persons who only wanted a miracle from Him, but didn’t want Him.  How did He handle all of this pressure and yet maintain who He was?  

One day the disciples were discussing among themselves with Jesus present what it must be like to see God, the Father.  Jesus then began telling them that He needed to go away and they would be unable to come with Him at this time.  He revealed to them that He was going to prepare a place where they could come. Then Thomas asked Him, “…How can we know this way?”  Jesus said those wonderful words in reply, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  He added, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.”  (John 14:5-7)

The disciple Philip then inquired of Jesus to show them the Father.  Jesus’ reply was pretty firm, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”   (John 14:9, 11)  From this dialogue, we are reminded there was only one image the Son was reflecting— that of the Father.  

Paul the Apostle confirms Jesus’ very words when he writes, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”  (Colossians 1:15) Perhaps the disciples struggled to comprehend this level of image/identity building, but Paul did not.  Paul was a trained Pharisee and he understood having his security, his esteem, his image and his identity built within a religious system that failed to show him who he really was.

For Paul, it took an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus where he received a vision and heard the voice of Jesus himself.  Just after this amazing and personal encounter, the Lord said to Ananias, another disciple, concerning Saul, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings.”  (Acts 9:15, emphasis mine)

Up to this point in time, Saul was carrying his given name and his authority in his Pharisaical beliefs.  While this character was powerful and ended the lives of Christians, God had a different name, or different mission and a different identity for Saul.  He would become Paul, a chosen vessel that would carry a much more powerful mission, identity and name.

We carry that name today as well.  This name is above every other name on this earth.  This name represents the image of our God within us.  

It is estimated by astronomers within our Milky Way galaxy alone, there are 100 thousand million stars.  The web site Space.com tells us the Hubble telescope has uncovered 100 billion galaxies and speculates this number will increase as telescope technology increases.  While all of this seems unfathomable, God, the creator of the universe, of every galaxy and every star also knows the name of every galaxy and every star.  

Truthfully scientists can’t tell us how many stars actually exist within our vast universe, but God knows each one and He knows you.  He knew you before you were in the womb of your mother.  He knows your name and He calls you by name.  He loves your name, the sound of your name, the sound of your voice, because He loves you.  Your name represents your existence on the earth and His call to you to follow Him.  Just as the disciples questioned, He wants to show you Himself and in actuality show you His Father.  Just like Paul, He has chosen you to carry His name, His identity and who He is to the world around you.  

Question for reflection:

How are you carrying His name to others?

You can purchase the book Identity: The Distinctiveness of You here.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity

Created to be an Image Bearer II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 13

I am holy and without blame before Him. Ephesians 1:4

I am an heir of God, a joint heir of Christ. Romans 8:17

It’s about time we actually provide a definition to what we are discussing, what we are in pursuit of.  The dictionary states that identity is “the condition of being oneself, and not another.  The condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities of belief…that distinguish or identify a person.”  (Dictionary.com)

For our purposes, the definition we’ll use is a bit different.  Our definition must reflect Someone far superior to us as human beings.  It must reflect Someone whose image is eternal and of worth to bear.  This identity must reflect the image of the one and only God and the character of His one and only Son, Jesus Christ.  Further and finally, the Holy Spirit of God must dwell within the spirit of the person who claims this identity as his/hers.

Here is our definition of identity:  To know who we are and whose we are in bearing the image, the heart and character of our Creator.

There is nothing religious about this definition; it is fully relational.  It is an identity that relates to the Triune God, the creator of identity through His very own work in creation.  To bear the image of the One who created us can never be accomplished by mere human thought, balance, personal effort, blood, sweat or tears.  It is not accomplished by human effort at all.  It is received.  An unworthy human vessel is baptized in the love of God, the truth of God, the Spirit of God, the character of God, in order to reveal the image of God.

I once heard someone say that if our identity is connected to what we do, then when we do more are we more?  Or said a different way: if our identity is connected to our intelligence, then are those who possess a higher IQ also possessing a greater, more actualized identity?  And, if our identity is connected to our resources, do those who make millions of dollars possess a superior sense of identity?

Obviously the answer to the above scenarios is “no,” and those who are building their identity on these capacities or beliefs will one day suffer loss and the consequence will also be the loss of their identity.  This is why far too many Hollywood actors end their own lives prematurely through suicide even with fame, fortune and notoriety.  It is why billionaires are not necessarily fulfilled or happy in life with their billions.  

Famous author Henri Nouwen once said concerning success, popularity and power, “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection.  Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.  When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.  The real trap, however, is self-rejection.  As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, ‘Well, that proves once again that I am nobody.’ Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’  Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”   (From: You Are the Beloved, by Henri J. M. Nouwen, Penguin, Random House, Canada)

As an heir of God, you are embraced as holy and without blame because you are His “Beloved.” You are seen by God through the cross of His Son. You are without blame because the Son of God was blameless.

Question for reflection:

Have you ever heard voices call you worthless or unlovable? Do you understand that you are “beloved”?

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