Tag Archive for strength

Do Unto Others: Part 4–Who Do You Think You Are?

 

Who do you think you are?

 

I’m not asking that in the sense that you usually hear it.  Usually this is a rhetorical question reserved for somebody who is getting WAY out of line.

 

But seriously, who DO you think you are?  What kind of adjectives would you use to describe yourself?

 

Unfortunately, the words many people would think of are not flattering.  “Depressed.”  “Worthless.”  “Insignificant.”  “Damaged goods.”  “Failure.”  “Unlovable.”

 

This matters, because how we see ourselves is a major factor in determining how we interact with others.  People who have a low self-image are not likely to engage in a healthy way, if at all, with the world around them.

 

Self-image is a complex thing.  It is the sum total of every attitude we have ever had about ourselves, but also everything we have ever HEARD about ourselves.  Some people are just jerks that like to pick on us and beat down our self-image.  Sometimes, however, we suffer long-term consequences for something we actually did do.

 

If any of this sounds familiar to you, may I offer you some encouragement, courtesy of St. Paul?

 

And his fullness fills you, even though you were once like corpses, dead in your sins and offenses.  It wasn’t that long ago that you lived in the religion, customs, and values of this world, obeying the dark ruler of the earthly realm who fills the atmosphere with his authority, and works diligently in the hearts of those who are disobedient to the truth of God.  The corruption that was in us from birth was expressed through the deeds and desires of our self – life.  We lived by whatever natural cravings and thoughts our minds dictated, living as rebellious children subject to God’s wrath like everyone else.

But God still loved us with such great love.  He is so rich in compassion and mercy.  Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!  He raised us up with Christ the exalted One, and we ascended with him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm, for we are now co-seated as one with Christ!

Throughout the coming ages we will be the visible display of the infinite, limitless riches of his grace and kindness, which was showered upon us in Jesus Christ.  For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him.  Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!  So no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving.

We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One.  Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!  Ephesians 2:1-10 (TPT)

 

Our worth does not come from what we have done (or failed to do) or from anyone’s opinion of us.  We have value simply because we were created in the image of the One who is the most worthy of all.  We didn’t have to clean ourselves up or check of a list of criteria or accomplishments to be “good enough” to live this life.  Rather, we have this life to live because we are already counted as good enough by the only One who matters!

 

We were made in the image of the all-sufficient God; therefore, what we have in our hands will always be sufficient for the tasks ahead of us.  Because when we were created, so was all of the work that God had planned out for our entire lives.  We are all wired to be proficient at and passionate about certain things.  And although we do have the free will to choose whether or not we want to walk on this path that has been so scrupulously marked out for us, it always seems to go better for us when we do.

 

Will we get off the path from time to time?  Of course we will.  We’re humans; we do that.  Remember, though, that the value of your life is not determined by how many times you screw up.  There are no “D-” children of God.  Life is pass/fail, and the pass is irrevocable, because the One giving the grade rigged the coursework in our favor.  All you have to do is show up for class.

 

Success!

 

I think the reason so many of us (myself included) see ourselves as failures is because our definition of “success” is all whackety.  We live in a world that is constantly judging our performance, so naturally, we do that to ourselves as well.  It seems we’re always trying to measure up to something.

 

Can we please help each other get over this?

 

I’m going to repeat myself here, because I need to hear it again too.  We don’t EVER need to worry about being good enough, because we were designed to be good enough to do the work that we were designed to do.

 

At the end of our lives, there are no bonus points for climbing the corporate ladder.  No other human will be giving testimony at the Judgment Seat of God that will determine whether or not we make the cut.  God is only going to ask us about two things: What we did with Jesus, and what we did with the gifts He gave us.

 

I need to pause here to note that the questions come in that order for a reason.  Because if you haven’t done anything with Jesus, the rest of this doesn’t matter.  You can’t do the work God predestined you to do if you are not even aware of (or are in denial of) the Truth that God actually did do that.  The thing is, we can’t do any of this on our own.  God doesn’t just provide the calling for our lives, but also the strength to live it out.  If we aren’t in a state of total trust and reliance upon that strength, then we are doomed to failure.

 

But wait a minute, aren’t there lots of successful people in this world who don’t believe in God?  Again I ask, how are you defining success?  If you’re talking about worldly things like money and status, then sure, I guess.  But as the King of the Piedmont Blues, Cootie Stark, once sang, “I never saw no U-Haul behind no hearse.”

 

 

 

Sure, we can make money and get the corner office, the big house, and all that.  But are we ever satisfied with our own efforts?  Solomon was one of the richest kings who ever lived, but this is his observation:

 

If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want.  It is useless.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 (GNT)

 

It is true that our identity is inextricably bound to our work.  It’s supposed to be that way, but we tend to look at this truth from the wrong angle.  Our work doesn’t determine who we are.  Who we are—who we REALLY are—determines our work.

 

So maybe when we meet people for the first time, instead of asking the typical guy question, “So what do you do?” maybe we should be asking, “Who do you think you are?”  Well, maybe not, but you get the idea, right?

 

So, Truthseeker, who DO you think you are?  Or better still, who do you KNOW you are?  Because that will determine what you do.

 

Deliverance

 

 

No, not THAT kind of Deliverance!
 

 

 

(Yeah, that’s more like it.)

 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that seemed hopeless?  Did you pray to God for deliverance?  I have found myself in that place on numerous occasions.

 

God always answers prayers for deliverance, but sometimes it’s not the answer we were expecting.  We have a tendency to treat God like an ATM—swipe our prayer card, and out come the blessings.

 

But sometimes the answer is “no.”  And sometimes it’s “not yet.”  And sometimes, it’s “Yes, but not the way you’re thinking.”

 

God wants us to live life to the full; however, He is always more interested in our holiness than our happiness.  We would love for our deliverance from trials and tribulations to be as quick and painless as possible.

 

But more often than not, God’s plan is to deliver us through the trial, rather than from it.  And painless isn’t always part of the plan.  In fact, sometimes the pain is the plan.

 

The trials we undergo may seem like the end of the world while they’re happening, and yet, we always come out the other side, maybe not totally unscathed, but still standing nonetheless.  We may have some scar tissue, but we also frequently have a sense of liberation.  We got THROUGH this!  And it didn’t kill us!

 

Here’s the thing about deliverance though.  The process of being delivered through a trial is supposed to be a lesson about reliance on God’s strength when our own is failing.

 

After all, why did we cry out to Him in the first place?  Because we knew that we were at the end of ourselves and it was only His strength that could deliver us.

 

So naturally, what do we do first when the next trial comes along?  That’s right, we try to fix our own problems and rely on our own strength.  Again.  Although we know we should never take God’s deliverance for granted, we do it anyway, because it is in our nature to forget things like that.

 

Fortunately God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, anticipates this, and is always there to pick up the pieces AGAIN (and again, and again).  What a great thing it is to know that we can always fall back on His patience and mercy!

 

Still, I think we ought to make more of an intentional effort to remember why God delivers us in the first place—because He is with us, and He is for us.  If He was in our corner the last time we had a problem, and we know that He doesn’t change, then it makes sense that He will go to bat for us again the next time we have a problem. 

  

So instead of having a high-speed come-apart the next time life beats us down or backs us up against the wall, we should approach our trial with confidence, knowing that we will be delivered, and that we won’t have to rely on our own strength to get it done.

 

Christianity’s PR Problem–Part 2: PRaise and PRayer

 

 

PRAISE AND PRAYER

 

God must come first, because He is first.  When you put God first in your life, you are not doing Him a favor; you are doing yourself one.  As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

 

 “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33 NIV)

 

So what is the best way to keep God on top of the list?  Well, the obvious answer is to pray.  But how?

 

Too often, our prayers sound like we are making God into our own personal vending machine.  We need or want something, so we push our prayer button and expect that we will receive an immediate answer to our prayers, all wrapped up like a Three Musketeers. 

 

Since we wouldn’t be asking God for something if we didn’t believe he was capable, and willing, to provide it,  why not start our prayer by praising Him for being that kind of a God? 

 

If we need His help, He is obviously greater than we are.  Starting our prayer time by meditating on just how much greater He is puts us in an appropriate posture for prayer.

 

Of course, once we’re there, standing in the glory of His greatness, we realize how unworthy we are.  This is a good opportunity for confession. 

 

You can’t help but call to mind where you’ve missed the mark when you have entered the presence of the Most Holy One.  But that’s just it.  Even though we have missed the mark, and will do so again, He still welcomes us into His presence. 

 

Once we begin thanking Him just for paying attention to us at all, we become more aware of all the ways, great and small, that He is acting in our lives.  Thank Him for all of those things, because He didn’t have to do any of them. 

 

I have found that the joy of the Lord comes to me in the course of my thanksgiving.  As David wrote:

 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” (Psalm 28:7 NIV)

 

It is through this strength that we finally get around to presenting our requests to the Lord.  Because now, instead of feeling confused and helpless and needy, we are renewed and refueled. 

 

(Next–Part 3–PRotect)