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

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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

Your True Selfie – The Relentless Pursuit of Who God Created You to Be

Day Three

Our move to Nashville was uncomfortable and definitely inconvenient. Then just two years later, we moved again. This time 5000 miles away to Hawaii. A beautiful, but isolated, island deep in the Pacific, more than 2000 miles from the mainland. Literally the deep, deep South, Y’all and far, far West, dude.

I left friends…again. Left family…again. Didn’t have any of my familiar “markers” to comfort me…again. Had to find and familiarize myself with new schools, new friends, new culture, new sports leagues, new grocery stores and new doctors…again.

Even more difficult, our kids left friends, schools, youth groups, and sports teams…again.

And once again, God gently began to unearth – like a shovel tilling soil – the areas in my life where I was looking to the wrong things for my security.

It’s hard to see with long-term perspective when you’re hurting and in the middle of difficult circumstances, but through the years, I’ve come to realize that God will always use the shaking, stirring, chipping, molding in my life to build something special. Something of greater worth to God that will bring him glory and be a blessing to others.

You see, God wants to do something in you so He can do something even greater through you.

And as a sculptor chips away at a marble slab to unveil something beautiful hidden within the marble, God will chip, mold, and shape your life to unveil the true beauty of who He created you to be.

Even in the pain.

Even in the loneliness.

Even in the loss.

Even in the uncertainty.

Your story is unique. Your personality and gifts are like no one else’s. In fact, the Bible says, you are God’s workmanship. His masterpiece.

In case you don’t believe me, let’s read Ephesians 2:10 and catch a glimpse of how God sees you. (This is a good one to write down and memorize.)

Paul writes,

“For we are God_s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

YOU are God’s handiwork, his workmanship. He created you for a specific purpose. All of your difficulties, all of your challenges, all of your struggles can be used for God’s greater purpose. God has an amazing ability to use average, broken people to display his love and power to the world.

Oftentimes, the temptation is to desperately search for what’s missing in our lives and lose sight of what we have been given – the blessing of what’s right in front of us!

In an attempt to rekindle our zest for life and purpose, we go searching for it.

We think, “Perhaps I should get a new job or career?”

Or, “Maybe things will be different if I move to a new city or make new friends?”

Or perhaps, “Should try a new school or get a new hobby?”

And sometimes, this helps.

But most of the time, after awhile, the same problems turn up there, too.

Because the real challenge for us lays not so much in the circumstances around us as it has to do with something within us.

In those moments of confusion, discouragement, monotony and uncertainty its easy to default to looking at the wrong things, the wrong people and the wrong places for worth and value.

But what would happen if, instead of trying to fix our problems by changing our circumstances, we allowed God to change us?  

You are of great worth to God. His masterpiece. Do not doubt that. You are not “not enough”, but more than enough because of a gracious, loving and merciful God who desires to do immeasurably more in your life.

In the routine of life, God has a beautiful treasure for you. In your everyday activities, He desires for you to live fulfilled and satisfied. Through the dark and difficult times, He has made his peace and grace available to you.

God wants to rekindle your passion for life, not by necessarily changing your circumstances, surroundings or physical appearance, but by slowly, gently, graciously changing you to reveal your true selfie.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, The Life of the Beloved writes, “The spiritual life is not simply a way of being, but also a way of becoming.”1

Take a moment to consider…

  • What are some places or things you look to for your security and worth? Why?
  • What things stand in your way from seeing your life as preciously created by God for a unique and special purpose?
  • Why is it sometimes easier for us to change our circumstances than it is to allow God to change us?

 

1 Nouwen, as quoted by Staci Eldredge in Captivating: A Guided Journal(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005) p. viii