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

Bonus Devotional: Day 31, Final Words

“There are two great days in a person’s life ­– the day we are born and the day we discover why.”  William Barclay

It has been the goal of this thirty day devotional for you to discover why you were born and to never let go of those truths. Thank you for joining with me and allowing me to be a small part of your devotional life. I pray that every day has been a blessing to you. Enjoy this final blog on identity and don’t forget to purchase your own book.

In the Scriptures, God chose to call Himself “Abba” or “Daddy.” It has always intrigued me that He used family language. Jesus repeatedly said that He only did what He saw His Father doing. If Jesus, the Son of God, looked to His Father, how much more do we need to get lost in His approval, esteem, identity, and love? The following verses describe this relationship so accurately.

The mature children of God are those who are moved by the impulses of the Holy Spirit. And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!” (Romans 8:14-16 The Passion Translation).

No one will force you to receive your security and identity in the Father’s love and acceptance, not even God Himself. According to the verses above, He says you are already good enough. He desires that you receive the “Spirit of acceptance” and approval. You are part of His family, never an orphan. Allow His Holy Spirit to make His Fatherhood real to you as He whispers in your innermost being: “You are God’s beloved child!”

It is unknown who first said these words, but I think they are so relevant as we close this book. “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Together, let’s change the ending and commit to starting that change today. 

It is said that we become like those whom we spend time with. We will pick up their language, their mannerisms and sometimes their attitudes. Spending time with God is never wasted. As we learn His language, His word, His mannerisms and His attitudes, we will find ourselves becoming more and more secure in that identity. You will no longer be who you once were or thought you should be. You will become the distinctiveness of you!

It has been a pleasure to connect with you on a daily basis. You can sign up for my weekly blog at: calledtogether.wordpress.com

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Challenge, Children, Identity, Insecurity, Marriage, Parents

The Heart of a Child

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 30

My children will stand firm in their faith. Isaiah 7:9

My children will not turn to the right or to the left; they will walk in the way of the Lord, that they may live and prosper. Deuteronomy 5:32-34

Even as newborns, children recognize smells and the voices of those around them.  While my children were still in their mother’s womb, I would talk to them, pray over them and let them know who I was and how we anticipated their birth.  We would even read stories to them in utero.  From the womb we wanted our children to know their worth and value within our family.  When born, each of my children recognized my voice, as though they knew me and had met me before.  

Children also know and recognize who strangers are very early on.  They will typically not go into just anyone’s arms if they do not recognize the smell or the voice.  This new voice may feel strange to them and they may resist.  Even tiny babies recognize differences, as well as similarities. 

It is said that children are not born with identities; those identities are formed over time from belonging, acceptance and affirmation, safe relationships with family, community (like extended family or church family) and environment.  Children receive messages concerning their identity that are spoken and unspoken.  Most children recognize a response of shame, rejection or disapproval without one single word being verbalized. 

Further, a child’s identity relates to a number of other contributing factors like their own personal self-concept built by long-term relationships, their memories of life events that help to build their life stories, being listened to, their opportunities to explore, making decisions for themselves, experiencing failure and even how conflict is dealt with around them.

God has expectations of His children, but it is not our performances or our accomplishments that gain His approval. God is perfect, yet He is not into perfectionism. In our mere existence, He approves of us. 

The answer to a child’s healthy identity is not a high-esteem originating from some form of performance. The answer is a God-realized love and approval along with your love, acceptance, and approval of your child.  These two main ingredients are foundational to your child’s healthy identity.

I must correct and reward my children. It’s a part of life. However, I must differentiate that while reward and correction have to do with behavior, it is never a question that I love and accept their personhood. In their mere existence, they are important to me. I always approve of them as individuals. They can never do anything to not be my children. 

Strong and affirmative encouragement and approval from parents and grandparents will help your child to feel safe, capable, optimistic, well-adjusted and positive.  In reality, most role models that are positive, encouraging and life-giving to a child will help to build a positive identity.  We must take action to keep our children from negative, demeaning or destructive influences in their lives.

In Galatians 4:19, Paul the Apostle wrote, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.”  Paul’s goal was to form or to build Christ, not himself.  I love the picture this presents because all the security and all the identity your child needs are not found in you, his/her parent, but in Christ Jesus.  

Finally, parenting requires a huge level of humility.  If we learn to approach our parenting with a spirit of humility, we will be able to admit when we are wrong.  We will also be able to apologize to our children allowing our children to change us.  Pride will certainly not help us in our parenting.

Question for refection:

How can you more effectively build Christ in your natural and spiritual children?

Watch for a bonus blog tomorrow!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Insecurity

Your Destiny II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 29

We have been justified by His blood. Romans 5:9

We have redemption through His blood. Ephesians 1:7

I blamed my father for most everything negative in my life.  After all, aren’t parents supposed to be kind, generous, loving and placing their children first?  Yes and no.  Not every parent is whole enough to be all those things to their children, as each one is in a different stage of healing and growing up themselves.  But still, I expected perfection from my father.  He was older, wiser and stronger than me.  I held him up as the one who should take all the blame for my messed-up life and for a while that worked for me.

Then one day I heard God whisper these words, “It is true, Steve, you did not have a perfect father, but you were never a perfect son and you, yourself, are not a perfect father.”  God was confronting me, kindly and with His truth.  I decided that day the blame game was over and that Jesus’ prescription to me read, “Forgive as you have been forgiven.”  It was the only way forward and it would be the only way I would really find God as my heavenly Father and not project upon Him that imperfect image of my earthy father.

God is the perfect Father.  He loves us perfectly.  He forgives us perfectly.  He disciplines us perfectly.  He has our best interest in mind.  God created a perfect garden within a perfect world.  He created mankind and placed him there with the perfect job.  He then created the perfect life mate and by Genesis three they were walking away from Him.  Not long after that, in Genesis four, Adam’s and Eve’s son committed murder when in a fit of rage Cain killed Abel. 

If we find ourselves becoming hurt over and over, we are very effectively creating a cycle of hurt and pain within ourself.  We must, according to God’s word, “put off” this “earthly nature” from the ways we “used to walk,” receiving hurt after hurt, and “put on” our “new self…the image of [our] Creator.”  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  (See Colossians 3:1-14.)  

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!  But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.  Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears.  But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.  And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.(I John 3:1-3)

Our identity must guide who we are becoming and with this new identity we have new authority, so that everything we say and do flows out of our identity in Christ.  This is the goal of God in our lives and the goal of our life in God.  This then is where it all ends, “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  (I John 3:2,3)  

We shall be like Him.  We shall walk in His identity, His life and His purpose.  There is no greater life to be lived than the one life in which we know who we are and Who we serve, Jesus Christ Son of God.

Question for reflection:

In what ways have you cast blame on certain others for your imperfections?

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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, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Is Your Identity for Sale?

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 26

I am seated with Christ in heavenly realms. Ephesians 2:6

I am loved with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3

I am qualified to share in the inheritance of the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12

Imagine that you lived 2000 years ago and you just recently heard of this One named Jesus and most of what you have heard has been negative.  In some strange way, this man and the controversy that surrounds Him intrigues you.  You would love to meet Him and you think about traveling to His town.  

The thought leaves you until one day you hear that He is coming to your region and your town is in an absolute uproar. There are so many questions, so many reports circulating; why is He coming; will you see Him; will He see you?  You determine to get to the Main Street to get a closer look; you see the crowds making their way toward you and here He comes.  A strange anxiety and nervousness intensify within you as you anticipate His closeness. 

Suddenly, He’s right there in front of you and He looks your way.  You want to look down, but don’t know why.  In reality you can’t look anywhere but straight at Him.  Surprised, He’s looking straight at you—eye-to-eye.  You don’t know how to describe the feeling: His eyes, are warm, inviting, questioning.  You can’t look away; you’re undone, you’re lost in His presence and your heart is pounding.  He opens His mouth to say something, but to you it’s all in slow motion as you hear the words, “Come follow me.”  You want to say, “Who me?” but you can’t utter a word.  Without thinking, you find one foot going in front of the other and you are, in fact, following Him.

His latest teaching is strange, like He’s going somewhere that you cannot come.  You feel almost rejected, pushed out of the nest.  Being thrust into the future without Him is incomprehensible and unimaginable.  For you there’s no going back, no return.  You have caught something from Him and there is now no other way to live life.  It’s even stranger how He prays these days.  His prayer focus has shifted to something about returning to the Father and sending another to be with you and your eleven friends.  You don’t desire another; you desire only Him.  

You remember that first glance on Main Street and how His eyes met yours.  You remember feeling unclean but accepted, all at the same time.  You reflect on so many things now, things that you took for granted over the past three years.  “Go away, Jesus?  Where would you be going and why would you be going away from us?  We gave everything to follow you.  We gave up our businesses and our families.  We gave up our homes and our belongings.  We gave these things up to follow You and now You leave us and promise another?”  You scream inside, “I don’t want another. I want You.”  You go off to pray and He goes off to pray. 

Where did Jesus end and His disciples begin?  Where did His disciples end and He begin?  The relationships are so interwoven in this story and yet there is such clarity of who you are and whose you are.  Even though Jesus walked with these men for over three years, He did not request of the Father to bring them with Him or to stay a while longer with them.  Jesus knew who He was and He knew whose His disciples were.  He was not comparing Himself with the Father or in competition for the relationships.  He was not jealous or possessive of His disciples’ relationships with His Father and neither did He try to manipulate His Father’s plan.   Jesus did what He came to do and now He was leaving earth without His disciples.  (See John 17.)

Even though the Father had given these relationships to the Son, the Son respected the boundaries given Him and handed them back to the Father.  (See John 17:10 – “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine.”)

Walk with Him today. He does see you and you can see Him. You are His and He is yours.

Question for reflection:

What were you feeling as you read today’s devotional and placed yourself in the midst of the story?

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Challenge, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

You are Uniquely You II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 25

I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live. Galatians 2:20

I have been given all things that pertain to life. II Peter 1:3

Have you ever experienced something in your past and then either externally or internally responded with the expression, I’ll never let that happen again?  Or perhaps your response was, No one will ever get close enough to hurt me that deeply in the future.  By doing so, you are literally speaking words over yourself, inhibiting your present and your future.  These words can become spoken vows, bringing destruction to future relationships and yourself.  

When you repeat the words, “I will never… again,” you are attempting to shield yourself from future hurt, but what you are actually doing is speaking curse-filled words over your present and your future.  In other words, those present-day words spoken from broken, hurtful relationships in your past have a profound effect upon your future connections.  

Victims remain victims because they harbor unforgiveness that has turned into bitterness.  Victims live out this bitterness on an ongoing basis by reliving the hurt and the pain and then telling themselves the person or persons who hurt them, who abused them or who took advantage of them deserve justice and do not deserve their forgiveness.  

It may sound harsh, but victims remain victims by living in their victimization – it keeps them in the past.  Victims do not need to change to create a better future, because we enable victims today to stay victims.  Too often, victims view themselves as powerless people, powerless to change and create a better future.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the most significant ways to be a victor today and in the future is through forgiveness.  To forget your past is not humanly possible, and the more traumatic the event it was, the less chance of forgetting.  But forgiving is a choice you can make that releases you and the one who hurt you so that you can live victoriously in the present and the future.  Isaiah reminds us to forget the past, to not dwell on the former things so we can see what God is up to today and tomorrow.  (Isaiah 43:18, 19) It is not possible to clearly see tomorrow through the cloudy lens of the past.  

But one thing I do (present): Forgetting what is behind (past) and straining toward what is ahead (future), I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (present/future).  (Philippians 3:13, 14)

And Jesus told us, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you (past/present), your heavenly Father will also forgive you (present/future).  But if you do not forgive men their sins (past/present), your Father will not forgive your sins (present/future).”  (Matthew 6: 14, 15)

True forgiveness allows us to live in freedom today because we no longer hold onto anything from our past.  Forgiveness is not a natural act; it is an act of God in our lives.  It is letting go of revenge or the thought of getting even.  

Lastly, true forgiveness will eventually allow me to forget the wrong.  Deep wounds can lose their sting long before the mind forgets.  When we suffer a deep cut, we tend to it immediately.  We require an x-ray, injections to numb the pain, and it is eventually sewn up.  Antibiotics are administered, a tetanus shot is certain, and the wound is watched for weeks to come.  When it comes to emotional wounds we often administer a little bit of, “Oh, it’s not very deep, it doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t need any spiritual attention.”  

For each of us to be distinctly and uniquely who we are created to be, forgiveness is an essential ingredient.

Question for reflection:

In what ways have you ever expressed spoken vows out of hurt or abuse, hoping to control the world around you so that the wounding does not continue?

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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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Encouragement, Identity, Insecurity

My Story

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 23

I am chosen by Him. I Thessalonians 1:4

I am rescued from the power of darkness. Colossians 1:13

I am now God’s child. I John 3:2

When we’re struggling to know who we are and why we exist, a sin-filled lifestyle will not take us in the right direction. Yet, self-destructive ways seem to come to us so easily, so naturally.  How do we ever think that partying, stunting our personal emotional growth through alcohol or drug use, hurting loving relationships around us help in any form or fashion?  What makes us think there is anything “normal” about this style of living on the edge or living so dangerously?  In fact, what it does do is reinforce how worthless we are, how valueless we are and how unhealthy we are.  It accentuates the negative self-hatred that we’re continually dealing with and it can become permanently destructive.  

Insecurity and the lack of any identity plagued me.  I never knew who I was, how I fit, why I existed or if I even wanted to or should exist.  For the two summers before graduation from high school, I was hanging out at the beach.  It was there that I heard the gospel for the very first time.  A young, blond haired girl that I was particularly attracted to went on a date with me and began to talk to me about Jesus.  Granted, once in a while I attended my local mainline denominational church in my home community, but I never heard the things that this young girl was about to tell me.

She told me I needed a personal relationship with Jesus.  She told me He was coming back again.  She told me He literally died on a cross for my salvation.  She told me He would change my life if I accepted Him.  All of which I did not argue against because I wanted a relationship with her.  I would tell her, rather manipulatively, that I agreed on all points and that I was cool with God, honestly hoping, all the while, that He was cool with me.

But it was the words of this girl, her passion, her excitement about a living relationship that attracted me to Him within her.  I don’t really know why, but from somewhere deep in my soul or my spirit, I was hungry for this truth.  I was hungry for the real and I desperately wanted God to be real.  

It was December of 1971 and I was receiving one last letter from the blond girl which included a gospel tract about “being saved.”  Oh, how I wanted to be saved, whatever that really meant.  How I wanted to escape the reality of my home and family.  How I longed to fill the huge void in my life.  I didn’t know how it would be possible.  I simply was not raised with faith outside of my grandmother’s words and prayers.

I would read the tract, then throw it down and say to myself, “Oh, I wish” or “Yeah, right…too good to be true.”  Nights later I would pick it up and read it again.  Finally, one night, around midnight, I, with little to no faith, but with huge desire, got down on my knees beside my bed and I prayed, Jesus, I am not sure if any of this is true.  I am not sure of your love, but please forgive me of my sin, my hatred for my father, my bitterness, my anger at You and whatever else I need to let go of to receive You into my heart.  Please change me!

To hate is easy.  To disregard and abandon is natural, but to love, to forgive, to have hope for a lost soul is supernatural.  As a youth, tormented by my father’s out-of-control rage, I wanted him to die or leave our family never to be seen again. Post conversion, I would only long for his redemption.  My heart was being healed and that resulted in an in-depth healing of who I was and who I was to become. Unforgiveness is certainly a road we can take, but it comes with a heavy emotional, physical and spiritual price.  

Question for reflection:

What is your salvation story?

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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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