Reflections – Time to Go Shopping!

Day Three

 

Everyone in our family loves the beach. Thankfully, we live just a few blocks away and have the opportunity to go a lot. In fact, during the summer my boys will go surfing almost every day. They practically live in their board shorts wearing them to the beach, to school, hanging out with friends and even occasionally to bed!

I have to remind them that just because their shorts got wet in the ocean doesn’t mean they’re clean. In fact, there have been times when the salty stench on their shorts was unbearable!

Paul, writing to the church in Colossae, ties our identity in Christ to the type of clothing we should wear. No, Paul’s not giving us fashion advice. Nor is he advocating a certain style of dress. Let’s look at what he says to them starting in verse 8 of Chapter 3,

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Paul intimates to those who are following Christ they need to change their clothes. They must take off the smelly, stinky, dirty clothes of their “old self” and put on some fresh ones – clothes that reflect their new identity in Christ.

Paul doesn’t give this as a suggestion; he emphasizes the urgency by telling them to do this now. Don’t wait for a more convenient time or a better opportunity. Don’t justify the stink or try to cover it up by spraying yourself down with Febreeze (yup, I must admit I’ve done that on occasion).

Rid yourself of those behaviors – change your clothes! Don’t live like the people around you. Instead, put on a new outfit, a beautiful one purchased with the blood of Jesus as you strive to look more and more like him every day.

Paul continues with this thought and draws a conclusion in verse 12,

Therefore, as God_s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3_12

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

“Chosen, holy and dearly loved.” Right now. As is. This is how God sees you. The real issue, for us then is this: are we living as if this is true?

Sometimes I’ve found it easier to believe other people are chosen, holy and dearly loved than to believe that’s how God sees me. We have all fallen short of perfection. We have all blown it. But, the good news is God continues to see you as the person He created you to be.

Your identity doesn’t come from the things you do or the people around you. It’s not earned or worked for. Instead, it’s a gift we receive with gratitude from a loving Father.

Paul is telling the Christians in Colossae their identity in Christ should reflect how they live and the “clothing” they wear. Their “clothing” should be consistent with their identity.

Our outer life is a reflection of our inward life. As a natural outflow of seeing ourselves as chosen, holy and dearly loved, we should “clothe ourselves” with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

And just like we take off our dirty clothes and put clean ones on, we are to take off attitudes, actions and things inconsistent with this new identity and clothe ourselves with a holy lifestyle that honors God and accurately reflects who He is.

I love how the NIV Study Bible explains this passage in Colossians 3. It reads, Paul is essentially telling the believers “they are called upon to become in daily experience what they are in Christ.”1

When we allow God to shape our lives, we begin to see ourselves as the women He created us to be. This transformation not only affects our lives and how we see ourselves, but it also begins to influence the community of people around us. He begins to use you to display his love to a broken world!

Time to go shopping for a new wardrobe!

 

Think about it…

  • What dirty clothes do you need to discard? What’s holding you back from getting rid of them and embracing your new identity in Christ?
  • Do you see yourself as chosen, holy and dearly loved? Why or why not?
  • Referring to verse 12, what “clothing” (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience) comes easy for you? Which of these is a stretch?

 

1NIV Study Bible (Zondervan), notes from Colossians 3:1

Reflections – Beauty from Pain

Day Two

In the 1930’s the St. Louis Cardinals had a star pitcher who played with youthful personality and passion. His name was Dizzy Dean.

Dizzy Dean led the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in 1934 when his pitching won them thirty games in one season. He was at the peak of his career and seemingly unstoppable until the 1937 All-Star game when a line drive struck him on the foot, fracturing his big toe.

Not one to sit on the sidelines, Dizzy found a way to adjust his pitching motion to avoid landing hard on his injured toe. But in the process, he hurt his shoulder, losing his great fastball.

Dizzy Dean’s career ended, not because of his injured toe, but because of the shoulder injury he received while compensating for his injured toe.

Many of us, perhaps you today, have learned to compensate for injuries to our identity. These injuries are lodged so deep in your heart and over the years, they’ve shaped the way you live.

You’ve learned to compensate.

Conceal.

Adjust.

Adapt.

And something deep inside just feels off.

It affects the way you see yourself, your relationship with God, your relationships with others, how you live and how you act.

Whether it’s due to shameful words, shattered dreams or painful experiences, these injuries are so deep we often don’t even know they’re there. We’ve just become really good at compensating for them.

Somehow we have to find a way to move beyond the discomfort and pain to embrace something far greater. God didn’t create us to limp around, masking and covering up our pain. He created us to live differently – with wholeness, vitality and purpose.

The path to experiencing this begins by allowing his loving presence to change and transform our lives. He’s an expert at taking the brokenness of our life and building something beautiful.

In fact, it’s what He does best.

Paul says it this way in Romans 8:17-18,

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

The brokenness, the suffering and the injustice that we see and experience here on earth, pale in comparison to the glory that we will experience when we meet Jesus face to face. As his children, we can live with a confident hope that rises above all of our present pain, fear, struggles and insecurities because someday, we will share with Jesus in experiencing the complete freedom and wholeness of his eternal Kingdom!

The Greek word for glory in the above verse is dóxa, which means a most glorious condition. The glory spoken of in this verse relates to us, his children, and refers to the ideal condition in which God created and intended his children to live.1  

God wants you to become and do everything He originally meant for you to be. He wants you to embrace your True Selfie! In fact, that’s why He created you!

Even better news: his glory can begin to be revealed through your life, right here, right now. Even through challenges, even through suffering, you can live in a way that glorifies God by pointing others to the eternal hope that you have in Christ.

The past failures and the present difficulties don’t determine our future and can’t hinder God’s purpose from being accomplished in our lives. Nothing even compares to the glory that God will someday reveal in us—the fullness and completeness of total wholeness, restoration and freedom.

Amidst great seasons of joy and success, our lives will be checkered with moments of heartache, disappointment, failure and unfulfilled dreams. God wants to use those seasons of suffering to mold, change and transform us. Ironically, it’s often during the most challenging seasons in my life, when I’ve seen God do his greatest work.

If you continue reading the rest of Romans 8, you’ll find Paul build on this truth as he writes about an unshakable hope we can have as Christ followers. One of my favorite verses is found here in verse 28,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

All things . . . that includes the financial things, the bad relationship things, the family things, the school things, the depressing things, the past things, the job-related things . . .

You get the idea?

Your number one hurt, your number one problem, God can use to help mold and shape you so you will more accurately reflect the image of his Son and bring glory to him through your life.

Often, we limit “the good” we’re hoping to see in our life to temporal, material things. Much of the time, God wants so much more for us. He looks beyond our circumstances, his perspective extends into eternity and “his good work” usually involves doing something of far greater eternal worth and glory as He works in our heart.

Whatever you’ve endured or experienced, it’s my prayer you would know God is good, He is faithful and He can be trusted. He desperately loves you and wants the best for your life. You’re beautiful and precious in his sight, and He wants to use your current mess to make something beautiful.

This doesn’t mean He’s a fairy godmother-type who alleviates all of our problems and pain. In fact, it’s often quite the contrary. Difficult circumstances are a pathway to growth and maturity. God loves you so much that He desires to work deep in your heart if you’ll let him. Some of the innermost places of character are forged through pain and suffering.

Even the most ugly, horrible experiences can be an opportunity for God to make something beautiful, something good, in your life.

Don’t compensate. Don’t cover-up. Don’t conceal any longer. Allow God to do his even greater work of healing in your soul.

Think about it…

  • What injuries to your identity might you be compensating for?
  • How have you seen the eternal hope offered to us through Jesus sustain you during dark seasons?
  • Why do you think God uses suffering and pain to mold and shape us? Have you seen this true in your life? If so, how?
  • What aspect of your life are you trusting that God would to work to bring something good? What step can you take to grow in your trust of him?

 

1 Spiros Zodhaites, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament(Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1992) p. 478 & Strong’s Concordance

Reflections – Part Three of Your True Selfie

Reflections

Day One

One of my favorite children’s books is The Ugly Duckling. Do you remember it? Let me briefly refresh your memory by summarizing it for you.

Once upon a time, born into a batch of adorable little ducklings, hatched a large, awkward one. Some might even go so far as to say this little duckling was ugly. Despite his mother’s attempt to protect and defend him, the young duckling endured much heckling and harassment from the other ducks until finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and he ran far, far away.

It was during this time that a beautiful flock of birds captivated his attention. He secretly wished he had been born with even a hint of the beauty these birds gracefully possessed.

The arrival of winter brought with it a cold, miserable, lonely time for the little duckling. Finally spring came and he saw these beautiful birds again and boldly decided to approach them. Anticipating the same rejection he had experienced in the past, much to his amazement, they didn’t run away from him or mock him but instead rushed to welcome him.

At that moment, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the water. No longer was he an ugly duckling, but through the cold, dark, lonely winter, he had been transformed into a beautiful swan!

The swan was now thankful for his past experiences of pain and suffering because it enabled him to further appreciate the beauty he now enjoyed.

Who would have dreamed that such beauty could have been forged from such ugliness.1

In many ways, I can identify with this little duckling.

Perhaps you can too?

Possibly you’ve admired the beauty, poise and “put-togetherness” you’ve seen in others, but doubted you could experience it for yourself.

Maybe it’s easier for you to believe God can transform the lives of other people, but you’re skeptical He would do it for you.

Possibly, you’ve lived with your “ugliness” for so long, you’re used to it and can’t imagine anything different.

Perhaps the pain of your past is so overwhelming you feel stuck and don’t even know where to begin to experience freedom.

Let me assure you, transformation is what He does best!

As I look back and see how much change and transformation God has brought forth in my life, I am in awe. Areas of my life that I felt completely powerless to change—areas where I felt hopeless—He has lovingly transformed. It’s incredible, really.

It’s a process that God continues to work in my life day after day, year after year. It’s not always easy and it’s not always pain free. I’m not the same person that I was a year ago and, thankfully, I won’t be the same person a year from now.

Although I’m not where I eventually want to be, I thank God that I’m not the person that I used to be.

Sadly from an early age, we begin to believe lies that are subtly sown into our minds and hearts. Even in elementary school, children begin to identify people as “ugly or pretty”,”fat or skinny”, “smart or not smart”, “popular or unpopular”, and “valued or unvaluable”.

As we grow older, these labels continue to shape and mold our identity, influencing the way we see ourselves and other people.

Believing thoughts such as, “I don’t fit in”, “I’m unloved”, “No one understands me”, “No one cares about me”, or “I’ll always be a failure”, over time shape how we see ourselves and affect the way we live.

The way we live is a reflection of how we see ourselves.

Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings in the Old Testament, says it this way…

As water reflects the face, so one_s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27_19

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19

How do you see yourself? What do you think about yourself? When no one’s around. No one is watching. It’s just you.

How you see yourself is a reflection of what’s going on inside your hearts.

Your heart is your true self – the real you.

How’s your heart? In the heart…that’s where the transformation begins.

 

Think about it…

Can you identify in any way with that little duckling? If so, how?

What present “ugliness” do you see in your life that you would like to change, but struggle to believe that God can transform that part of your life?

What step can you take to invite God to begin his work of transformation in that area of your life?

 

1 Hans Christen Andersen, The Ugly Duckling