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, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Sexual Brokenness

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 19

I am kept by God’s power. I Peter 1:5

I am in Christ Jesus by God’s act. I Corinthians 1:30

I am redeemed from the curse of the law. Galatians 3:13

When we or our culture or the “experts” link our identity to our sexuality, we are allowing our sexuality to define who and what we are.  I love this thought from the scripture that states, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works…”  (Ephesians 2:10) You are a product of God, not your history, not your environment and certainly not whatever lies you have been told about your sexuality and your identity.  

When the teachers of the law brought the woman who was caught in adultery (interesting to note that they did not bring the man as well, because under the moral code of the law, both had committed a crime punishable by death), they wanted to know (as a test) what Jesus would do with her.  Both they and Jesus were aware that adultery was a sin that required death according to the law.  Jesus responded that whichever one of them was without sin could cast the first stone, and as they walked away one by one, He turned to the woman and forgave her.  But He did more than forgive her; He told her, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:7-11) Jesus was saying that adultery is still sin, but that He had the power to forgive the sin and cleanse the sinner.

While sexuality is tied in to who we are as a human being, it is not our identity.  What does that mean?  We are not primarily sexual beings; we are primarily spiritual beings who live in a body, have a mind, will and emotions and have the capacity to act sexually.  Our sexuality does not define us; God defines us as created in His image.  It is our spirit that is the eternal part of us and it is our spirit that is to lead the emotional, the physical and the sexual.  

For too many, Jesus has become convenient, no more than a means to escape eternal separation from God.  Meanwhile, they believe they can live according to how they personally interpret the scriptures (if they are even reading the scriptures).  We cannot say we love Jesus only to the point where His words inconvenience us, and then rewrite the scriptures to match our personal beliefs.  Jesus was a reformer, a revolutionary who taught an inconvenient reality.  Even in our culture today, if you or I believe what He taught, it will be inconvenient.  In fact, Jesus warned us that as He was persecuted for what He exposed and taught, we would be as well. (See John 15:18, 19.)  

True freedom is possible for any sin or sickness that human beings have had to face since the third chapter of Genesis.  While the Old Testament exposes the sin, the New Testament provides the truth of the Incarnate One, the Redeemer of this sin.  The Old Testament scriptures are vital to understanding the New Covenant.  It is the old that makes a way for the new.

Too often Christians believe there is no need to read the books of the law or the major and minor prophets.  “That was the Old Covenant,” they repeat, “and we are under a New Covenant.”  But this statement is only partially true.  You cannot have a new without the old.  Jesus Himself walked on this earth under the Old Covenant, and He addressed the need for the Law of Moses.  He taught this law, and He walked in obedience to it. When Jesus was placed upon the cross to die for all of mankind, it would be the dividing mark for the Old and the New Covenant.  We are grateful for the old, all the while we live in the new. It was an act of the Father to bring us to His Son as we are made free from sin and death by God’s power.

Question for reflection:

Reflect on this statement: “You are a product of God, not your history, not your environment and certainly not whatever lies you have been told about your sexuality and your identity.”

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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, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Testing Our Identity II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 16

I am an heir, a son of God. Galatians 4:7

I am a new creature in Christ. II Corinthians 5:17

In today’s devotional, we see four revelations all important to the establishment and growth of our identity in Christ. 

Romans chapter eight speaks over each of us with these deeply compelling words, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…”  

Revelation number one: We are heirs, the children of God.  We know this by revelation because this revelation is given to us from our spirit to our minds and not from our minds to our spirits

Revelation number two: We are a new creation.  The verse found in II Corinthians 5:17 is revelation when it comes to our new self – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  You are a new creation in Christ.  A new creation has a newly developing mind because of the Spirit of Christ within us. Elsewhere in Corinthians we are told that we have the mind of Christ.  (See I Corinthians 2:16.)  To have the mind of Christ is a revelation because we are thinking His thoughts and then speaking His words from our spirit.  

I was in my counseling office one day, ready to reprimand a counselee for not completing his reading assignments when I heard the voice of the Spirit say, “Ask him if he struggles with reading.”  I thought, “What? Who can’t read in this day and age?”  But I obeyed and asked Mike if he struggled with reading.  Immediately he dropped his head as if to say, “You found me out.”  He then told me that he was unable to read and could barely write. Thankfully, I acted on what God revealed to me through His Spirit and not my feelings.

Revelation number three: We are overcomers.  Jesus told us in this world we would have trouble and tribulation, but that we were not to be discouraged, He has overcome the world.  (See John 16:33.)  We are overcomers in Him by revelation!

Further in Romans chapter twelve we are admonished to live life this way: “Hate what is evil;” “Be devoted to one another;” “Love one another;” “…be patient, be joyful, be faithful in prayer, practice hospitality, live in harmony with one another, do not repay evil for evil, live at peace with everyone, do not take revenge and overcome evil with good.” 

Mother Teresa was once asked by the press in the United States if she ever felt like a failure.  Her answer to them was by revelation.  She said, “No, because I am not trying to be a success, only obedient.”  Mother Teresa was not a failure, neither did she described herself as one; she was an overcomer.  

Revelation number four: The purpose of identity is not about me.  Tying this all together is revelation number four.  It is the ‘why’ of identity.  For God to reveal this revelation to us, we, our flesh, must get out of the way.  We have to receive a revelation of why He chooses to live within us.  He chooses this path in order to equip you to live out His story on the earth for the season that you exist on this earth.  

Acts chapter seventeen has some verses that I love to share with people in order to receive this revelation.  It states, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” 

God determined your birth for this time, this season.  God saved you for this time, for this season.  God lives in you for this time and this season. You live where you live because He determined the “exact places” for you to live out His story on the earth.  

Questions for reflection:

In what ways can you say that you are becoming a new creation in Christ?

You can order the new book here.

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Challenge, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

Testing Our Identity

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 15

Jesus has overcome the world and I am an overcomer. John 16:33

I am partaker of the divine nature of God. II Peter 1:4

One of the biggest tests of our identity is the test of approval from others.  We long for positive attention to justify our very existence.  But what if it could be different, far different?

Jesus had just been baptized in the Jordan river, filled with the Spirit of God and spoken over by His heavenly Father, calling Him His beloved Son.  Jesus knew who His Father was, therefore: knowing who He Himself was.  (See John 5:17-48) Almost immediately following this heavenly affirmation comes a repeated test of His identity. 

From the Jordan river Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert, where He will be tested and tempted for forty days by the devil.  The first words out of the devil’s mouth were, “If you are the Son of God…”  This phrase is repeated several times.  We might paraphrase this line of questioning by saying, “So, you think you know who you are, let’s see about that…” or, “If your identity is in the One you say it is, then…”

We now see how important those words were that Jesus’ Father spoke over Him while in the Jordan river during His baptism.  He now faced the biggest test of His miraculous abilities, His very life and His very purpose for coming to earth.  Jesus passed the tests and in the end told the devil, “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”  (See Matthew 4:1-11.)

Jesus would not worship the devil and neither would He be tempted to worship Himself.  Can we pass these tests of identity when the evil one lies to us with a similar phrase like, “Who do you think you are?” or “So, you’re claiming your identity in Christ, we’ll see about that.”  Tests are just that—a test.  They are not necessarily life or death, but if we do not know who we are and our identity is not solidly found within the Father’s love for us, then we most likely will not pass the test of identity.

When we do pass the test of identity we can be assured there will be another test forthcoming.  The devil is relentless when it comes to attacking us in this manner.  Why?  If he can get us to doubt our identity in God’s love and approval, then he can also get us to doubt our salvation, our relationship with God or whether or not we are loved by God.  

Peter wrote it this way, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into wonderful light.”  (I Peter 2:10 NLT)

When you look into the mirror, what do you see?  Do you see the one who is not swayed or is not constantly looking for the approval of men, like Jesus?  Do you see the one who can pass the tests of identity?  If you are just not quite there yet, then let me share with you four revelations that are needed to pass those tests.

As you face tests in life that connect to your identity, rest assured as a son of God, you can pass those tests and overcome the world through His divine nature living within you.

Question for reflection:

Have you considered your need for the approval of certain others and how that affects your security and your identity?

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

Created to be an Image Bearer

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 12

Christ is being formed in me. Galatians 4:19

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

When my younger son was living at home with us as an older teenager, he was frequently told by others that he sounded like, looked like and walked like his father.  While that was not pleasing to him at the time, it was true.  Marc, without trying to, bore the image of his biological father.  Truthfully, it’s not something that we, as sons and daughters, can control due to the fact that God created us to be image bearers.

In Genesis chapter one, it is revealed that God created man in “…his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  David, the Psalmist, wrote, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalms 139:14) We were made, created, breathed into to bear the image of God, our creator.

Perhaps you have lived life long enough to realize that you did something, said something or thought something that reminded you of one of your parents.  You told yourself at that moment, “Wow, did that ever sound like my dad.”  You might have been reminded by a sibling that a certain look, raised eyebrow, laugh or gesticulation reminded them of your mother.  It’s inescapable actually.  We were created to be image bearers.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to now have children of your own, you may already see images in your children that remind you of yourself.  It’s uncanny how it happens, but it happens for one reason only.  When God first created man, he created him to bear an image and the first image that we are to bear is the image of our heavenly Father.  Make no mistake, our created self has the DNA of our family, but traced back to the book of beginnings, Genesis, it is one image and one image only that we were fashioned after–the image of God.

It is not an option to be an image bearer, but it is an option as to whose image we bear.

We carry within us the things that that have helped to shape us.  We can choose to bear the image of a “mere human” or we can choose to move toward that which we were created to be.  In I Corinthians chapter three, Paul is sharing with the Corinthian church that they too had a choice.  He wrote that who they were acting like, the image they were bearing/reflecting was challenging his desire for them to be persons who “live by the Spirit.”  He revealed to them they were still acting worldly (or of this world) with petty jealousies and the like.  His admonishment to them was to stop acting like “mere humans” and start acting like God’s temple.

How often have we acted as mere humans with our petty differences, jealousies, offenses, snarky replies and the like?  Mere human thoughts are thoughts connected to our earthly existence only and do not reflect God’s kingdom on earth.  Mere human thoughts are self-centered, self-absorbed and self-protecting.  These thoughts stem from our minds and not our spirits.  They are full of earthly wisdom and bear the fruit of that wisdom.  (See James 3:13-16.) A key verse concerning the foundation of our identity is this truth, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  (I Corinthians 3:16)  

You are being conformed into the likeness of the Son of God, because you were created to bear His image.

Question for reflection:

How are you an image bearer of your earthly family, of Jesus?

You can purchase the Identity book here. Use it for yourself, your family or study the book with a small group.

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