Issue of Identity – Part two of Your True Selfie

Day Four

Three of my kids head back to school next week and the other two start back at college in a couple of weeks.  As I mourn the end of summer, I’m gearing up for one of my least favorite parenting duties…the seemingly endless stacks of parent forms, class fees and tuition payments.

Don’t even get me started on the cost of college textbooks. I’m incredulous that one used biology textbook that my child will use for just a few months will cost several hundreds of dollars. Really?! These are students surviving on Cup of Noodles! (And with these payments, the parents may be too :).

You discover the value of something when you know the price that was paid for it. While college textbooks may be overpriced, I still pay for them because I see the value of the end product: a college education for my kids.

God paid a high price for you and me. He gave his only Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. The value of paying this high price is God providing a way for us to have a relationship with him.

You have incredible worth to God because of the great lengths He was willing to go and the high price He was willing to pay.

Sadly, we often don’t look to Jesus as our primary source of identity. We go searching…grasping for it in other places. Looking for that thing, that career, that relationship, that job to give us the worth our hearts are desperately longing for.

For years, I derived my worth from what I did. I lived as if my performance was what made me valuable. I would do, do, do…add, add, add wearing myself out to prove my worth and significance. When I did well, I felt good, but when I failed, I was devastated. It was like running on a treadmill – I was working hard and completely wearing myself out, but getting nowhere.

We’ve looked at how the One who created us is the One who has the right to name us. Similarly, the One who created us is the same One who should define our worth. If we’re not allowing the truth of God’s word to define us, something else will.

Three of the areas I find myself repeatedly but insufficiently looking to for affirmation and worth are:

  1. My past.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,… Philippians 3:13

Recounting past failures and disappointments with a liturgy of “if only’s” will wear you out. It is impossible to move forward if we are continually looking back. Instead, we should strain forward to what’s ahead. Your worth is not measured by your past failures, experiences, mistakes or even your past successes and achievements.

While the past makes us who we are today and teaches us valuable lessons, Paul says we are not to dwell on it. Like Paul, we need to “forget” our past and put it where it actually is – behind us if we’re to move forward into all God has for us.

  1. Other people.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.2 Corinthians 10:12

When we constantly compare ourselves with others, we’ll never be satisfied. If we compare ourselves with people who appear to be more “put together” and successful than us, we’ll feel like we’re constantly failing and falling short. And if we compare ourselves to people who seem to be worse off than us, we’ll be tempted to give in to pride and criticalness. It’s a NO-win situation!

No matter how hard we study, how diligently we work for a promotion, how many hours we spend trying to be the best wife and mom, how many diets we try, or how long we strive to be accepted, somebody will come along sooner or later that will outdo, outperform and “outlook” you.

Resist the pull to conform to be like everyone else. Your worth is not measured by your appearance, performance or the approval that other people give you.

  1. Believing lies.

… When he [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

You have an enemy that loves to whisper lies to you. And how easily we can be persuaded to believe them! It’s his native language to spew forth lies and lure us into his web of deception and confusion.

In Revelation 12:10, we see another name for the devil,

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. Revelation 12:10

The Hebrew name for satan actually means accuser! One of his primary goals is to beat you down with accusations of fear, shame, insecurity, inadequacy and failure. Satan gains power over us as we begin to listen and believe the lies that are constantly spoken to us.

At times, I have found myself investing more time into reasoning with and embracing the lies in my mind instead of replacing them with the truth of God’s word.

Such. A. Waste. Of. Time.

Slowly, I’m learning.

The apostle Paul, in Philippians, instructs us to live with a different focus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praisewor

God asks us to make a concerted effort to shift our thoughts away from that which will distract and discourage us, to that which is true, pure, right and noble.

It can be so hard, can’t it? Our mind naturally drifts towards our past, other people and lies. Suddenly we find ourselves stuck and can’t even begin to find our way out.

Like a car spinning its wheels in the mud, we expend a lot of energy yet are unable to get any traction to move forward. Moving forward requires us to embrace and focus on things that are true and then discard our old ways of thinking.

The Bible provides us with the foundation of truth on which we can firmly ground our lives. God’s Word gives us the strength and traction to move forward when we feel stuck.

My friend, you are a child of God. Your identity and worth are determined by God not by the people and circumstances surrounding you. Don’t settle for anything less.

By looking to our past we can easily become defeated, by comparing ourselves to others we can be discouraged, and by listening to the devil’s accusations we can become confused, defeated and deceived. Only by looking to Jesus, can we truly become all that God created us to be.

And as a 19th-century philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”*

Think about it…

Where are some places you go to find and measure your worth?

Which of the three pitfalls do you find yourself falling into most often? Why?

How can you begin to embed your identity in what God says about you and how He created you to live?

How can spending time in God Word increase your understanding of your identity as a child of God? How can this influence your relationships and the effect you have on those around you?

*Soren Kierkegaard, as quoted by John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997, 2002) p. 11

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How I Almost Ruined Thanksgiving Dinner

 

I love Thanksgiving! It’s the one day of the year where family and friends gather and share an abundant meal, eat to our heart’s content and give thanks for all that God has done and continues to do in our lives.

It truly is the best kickoff to the most wonderful time of year. It’s a day to reflect on God’s goodness, to enjoy the special relationships in our lives and celebrate God’s continued faithfulness. It’s a day to watch football games and parades, and a day to cook and create a wonderful meal for those whom I love the most.

While I’m no Pioneer Woman, I enjoy investing a lot of thought and time into preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Gathering my favorite recipes, compiling the grocery list, shopping and cooking usually begin several days before Thanksgiving.

Last year, was no exception. Jessica, my youngest, and I got up early and began the preparations. We recorded Macy’s parade to watch later in the day because my boys were adamant that a football game – not a parade – should be watched live.

Several hours later as the smell of turkey wafted in the air, Jessie and I sat down to enjoy the parade while Gregg and the boys headed to the beach for a quick surf session. Before engrossing myself in the holiday floats, high school bands and the Radio City Rockettes, I thought I had better check on the turkey and baste it one more time.

However as I attempted to open the oven door, it wouldn’t open. The door was stuck, trapping my turkey inside!

On Thanksgiving!

Really?!

You have GOT. TO. BE. KIDDING ME!

Why couldn’t this have happened while I was reheating Bagel Bites like on any other night? This is Thanksgiving! The Super Bowl of all meals!

Seriously, the door was only opening about six inches.

Somehow, the latch at the base of the oven door had broken, jamming the door and preventing it from opening. We tried EVERYTHING! Pounding it. Prying it. Shaking it. Kicking it. Skyping in family members for advice.

Nothing worked.

So there my turkey sat, in my oven, fully cooked, with no way of escape.

My Thanksgiving dinner was on the verge of disaster and as my attempts to liberate my turkey proved futile, the excitement of family gathering together around our table shifted to worry, anxiety and visions of eating at Zippy’s.

After about 45 minutes, we decided to break the oven door, bending and prying it open about 12 inches – just enough space for Gregg to spear the turkey with two roasting forks and squeeze the bird through the opening and onto the platter. Crisis averted (as long as it’s fully cooked).

Ironically, throughout the week I had been meditating on Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians,

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Ouch! My joy and peace can be sooo circumstantial. How quickly I can allow something as silly as an oven door not opening to steal my peace and take my focus off of the important things. Opening the door to worry, I let can little distractions begin to consume my thoughts. First world problems, right?

Paul’s source of joy as he wrote this letter to the Philippians was in the midst of really difficult circumstances. He was in prison with no resolution in sight. Yet here he is telling them to not worry, pray and be thankful – as a man who had been beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, starving. OK, I’m now thoroughly convicted.

Paul could challenge them in this way because he had experienced God’s presence. He had a relationship with Jesus; he had seen people healed and delivered. He had confidence in a good God and knew that He was faithful (Psalm 100).

Paul wasn’t advocating positive thinking, or a “glass half-full” perspective. His confidence was rooted in a deep assurance that God is in control – regardless of his present circumstances. Paul encouraged the Philippian people that they didn’t have to live in fear, worry or anxiety anymore because the One True God, Jesus, is in control of everything and intimately concerned with every detail of their lives – even a turkey trapped in an oven.

You can approach God and know that He is intimately involved in your life. Even when troubles and difficulties arise, He will be with you to lead you through them. My hope is that I will grow in my ability to pray, give thanks and notice the shards of hope in the difficult places and unlikely circumstances. I want to be able to respond as Paul did…

Pray about everything…

I once heard it said this way: worry assumes that we are in control; prayer asks God to be in control. The causes and opportunities for our worry will never go away. While our natural reaction may be to control our circumstances or fix our problems, God asks us to surrender them to Him.

Tell God what you need…

There are legitimate needs and causes to worry. The benefit of talking to God about them is that while we do, we discover that the God who is everywhere and in control of everything, becomes real to us in ways that we wouldn’t experience otherwise. In our cries to him, we feel his comfort. In our pain and anxiety, we feel his presence and we get to know him and discover his character.

Thank him for all he has done…

Thank him for all the little amazing miracles He does every day all around you.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

We liberated our turkey, (and it was delicious by the way) but broke our oven in the process. I almost ruined thanksgiving – not because I wrecked the turkey, but I almost allowed the pressure and stress of creating the perfect Thanksgiving meal to usurp the true intention of the day – a day of thanks for God’s abundant blessing in the midst of life’s imperfection.

As we enter the most wonderful time of year and begin to journey through the holiday season, my prayer is that you would remember these words from Paul and take time to thank God for the simple things around you – even an oven door that opens.

 

 

Created to Shine

When a massive power outage struck the Los Angeles area in 1990’s, several southern California residents called 911 to report their alarm concerning strange clouds hovering overhead.

No, it wasn’t an alien invasion. It wasn’t the end of the world.

They were seeing the Milky Way for the first time.

Every night the Milky Way is in the sky, but they hadn’t been able to see it because of all the distractions cluttering and diluting the busy Los Angeles sky.

Funny how when all of the distractions around us are taken away we can see things we’ve never seen before. With newfound clarity, we appreciate the brightness of things around us. We see them in their purest, unstained state – the full beauty of how God created them.

When we visit my in-laws in Tahoe, the constellations burst with brilliance. We’re far enough away from everything that bustles and diverts that we’re captivated, amazed that we don’t wonder at their magnificence every night.

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Sometimes it’s imperative for us to pull away, break out of our routine, or visit a new place to recapture afresh the fullness of life. To gasp at the brilliance of the night sky, to stand in awe of the powerful ocean waves so we can once again appreciate the beauty of a life created by God and brimming with purpose and potential.