He’s Important to Me

I volunteer at a teen residential facility, leading spiritual initiatives as a sort of a chaplain. Earlier this week I visited the thisismyprayerforyouedited-640x360students hoping to encourage them and inspire a walk with Christ in them. A father of one of the young ladies was visiting that day. She brought him to me and introduced us and told her dad that I was the spiritual guy. I explained to him what that meant so her father would understand the role of our Sunday Spiritual times. Then the young lady told her father that I was important to her and explained why. She self-harms and I encourage her not too. I basically told her I don’t like it when she it hurt, even if she is the one hurting herself and asked about how long she had gone since the last time without harming herself. She told me and added it had been four days this time. I encouraged her to go for the goal of one more day than the last time and then we set the goal of one more day each after.

I am important to her because I don’t want her to hurt herself. honestly, it hurts my heart to know that she would purposely  hurt herself. She wants to have a relationship that builds and holds her up. One that she can trust and rely on for support and help. Knowing her background, she has the love and support she needs, but a couple of things have blocked her understanding (besides the confusing messages our world, media and her friends give). One is her understanding about herself which got sidetracked at some point and another is her parents, though they love her, haven’t learned how best to make that understood in her life.

I am not casting blame here, I am citing reality.

One of the things that provided an open dialog between this young lady and myself is that I told here I have prayed for her. She had been struggling one day when I was visiting about 6 months ago and it took her back. She asked in surprise, “You pray prayfor me?” She was shocked. I told her that I do. I told her I prayed for every one of the students there and especially when I know she is struggling, I pray for her more. Apparently, that touched her. She responded, “No one ever prayed for except my mom.”

What she doesn’t realize is that there are others who pray for her besides her mother (and father) and me. There are coaches, who are saints (i.e. Christians) who pray for her as well. I’ll bet there is other family and maybe family friends praying for her.

What she is realizing and God seems to be using me to help bring this realization into her life, is that she is important, even extraordinary (thank you Aaron Chambers*). God loves her and cares for her. People love her and care about her. She is learning that when she feels safe, it is with people who are people of God. She understands that this God-thing is real and it is reaching deep into her life and bringing here hope and even joy, when she remains in her understanding of God’s love. She is realizing, “For God so loved the world,” that God loves her.

Due to confidentiality, I cannot tell you anymore, but I ask that you pray for her. God will know who you are praying for even if you do not know her name or where she is. He knows because he cares, because he loves her too.

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*Remember Who You Are, Unleashing the Power of an Identity Driven Life, by Aaron Chambers, Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2007, citing chapter 9; http://www.standardpub.com/Products/24324/remember-who-you-are.aspx

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The Lukewarm Christian

The Lukewarm Christian – Revelation 3:14-22

 

There is no form of Casual Christianity that we want to be.

1st – the Christian Atheist – Christians who live as if there is no God

2nd – the Cultural Christian – Christians whose faith is guided by what the world thinks

3rd – the Lukewarm Christian!  Some call this the Comfortable Christian

Revelation 3:14-22

The book of Revelation gives us seven letters to seven churches located in Asia Minor.  These cities are in the middle of the first century world.  The churches in these seven cities were suffering persecution and tribulation from the Roman government, or soon would be.  There would be pressure to conform to times.  To worship just like everyone else.  To set Christianity aside, at lease for a moment or two to fit in with the rest of society!

Laodicea is the last church addressed by the Lord.  Just like the other churches, Jesus knows all about what they are experiencing.  His vision is not blinded to the struggles the church goes through.  He knows how the church is reacting to the pressures they are feeling.  Jesus is with the churches and gives them solutions to their problems.  And with Laodicea we find the solution to the problem of being lukewarm Christians – Christians without zeal for the Lord, who have become “uncommitted” to him and committed to themselves.

Jesus who is the Amen and the Faithful and True Witness writes to a church that he has nothing positive to say about them.  He has words of discipline.  They are not as they should be.  His words, his promises, his judgments are certain.  They are God’s values, God’s judgments, but of course that is who Jesus is.

He is also the “firstborn of creations” or the “originator” of it all.  Implying that he rules, he is the ruler of all.

So we’ve got a church that is lukewarm!  They are neither cold like the water in Colossae about 10 miles away, nor are they hot like the springs in Hierapolis about 6 miles away.  The water from these two spots were piped into Laodicea because it did not have a water supply of its own.  So once you got the cold water from Colossae to Laodicea, it wasn’t cold, it was warm.  Not the most pleasant taste.  And once you got the water from the hot springs to town, it was warm.  In fact, the water that came into Laodicea wasn’t very good.  It was disgusting.

The hot water was good for medicinal purposes and the cold water was refreshing to drink.  But lukewarm water was blah.

The point of describing lukewarm water is that it is disgusting.  Jesus finds the lukewarm church to be other than what HE desires.

The reason for their self-satisfied, uncommitted manner is that they think that since they are rich, they were wealthy people that really didn’t need anything.

Laodicea was a banking center.  Because of the wealth, there were leisure and cultural aspects, gladiatorial games and theatre; comfort, entertainment, diversions, etc.  It was an important city because it also had a major textile industry.  Clothing was made there and they had a unique product, black wool.  Oh, and, there was a medical school there and the city was famous for its eye salve among other medical breakthroughs.

Jesus is telling the self-satisfied church, “I want water that will refresh me, but you remind me instead of the water you are always complaining about.  You’re lack of zeal makes me want to vomit.”

Their wealth was a problem.  It had made them too comfortable and blinded them to what their faith was about.

What are the dangers of Physical wealth which can lead us to Spiritual poverty?

  • Self-sufficiency, trusting in what I have acquired, it is enough, etc.
  • Pride, look at what I have done
  • Not needing nor wanting any outside help including from the Lord
  • Prosperity blinds us.

Craig Keene says “I fear that the problems of Laodicean Christians are most like our own.”

Richard Sterns of World Vision (formerly CEO of Lenox Inc. makers of fine China), “If the book of Revelation were written today and there was a letter to the church in America, I think it would decry the fact that our materialism and wealth have deafened our ears and blinded our eyes to the cause of the poor.”

Every American is rich.  Even those that are considered poor by our standards are wealthy compared to a majority of the rest of the world and even the wealthiest of kings up until the last 400-500 years or so.

And many Christians cannot see their spiritual need, how poor and blind they are because they have.  They are comfortable and settled and trust in what they have and ignore what God says about things and the needs of others.

What is “true religion” as James tells us?  It is to look after widows and orphans, those who are poor, helpless, and oppressed and to keep yourself unstained by the world, to be pure in heart, to be holy, to be free from sin (James 1:27).

What Richard Sterns was getting at is that we can hear about suffering elsewhere and often we will find theological or even sociological reasons that it won’t happen to us, and even to avoid actually spending our wealth, even in the church on those needs.  Our walk . . . can make us spiritually poor.

There is a church I know of, that a friend of mine used to preach for.  He was their minister for many years, but resigned after challenging them.  They had accumulated an excessive amount of savings, in the tens of thousands of dollars and wouldn’t touch it for anything.  There were missions in need, the camp they supported could have used extra funds, people struggling with rent and utilities, but they would not touch this money that they had been saving for decades.  And as far as I know, they still haven’t touched it to this day.  They are rich in wealth, but where is their spiritual sense of purpose and action.

The lukewarm church, lukewarm Christians are people who possess the name Christian, but do so without the power of God.

Jesus has a solution to lukewarmness

1st – Though you possess what makes you feel comfortable, Jesus advises that we buy true wealth from him.  Trust in him not our physical riches.  Physical riches are not for making us comfortable, they are for us to help spread the good news and provide for the needy.

2nd – Though we think we are clothed, we are naked before God, so buy clothes from Jesus that will cover our nakedness.  The true clothing of Christianity, not self-sufficiency but trust in Christ.

3rd – Repent and become totally committed to me.  Let me build a fire of zeal for true faith and true religion in your belly and free you from what makes you taste horrible to me.  Then you will be like refreshing water.

4th – Open the door and let Jesus come in and eat with you.  The last meal of the day is the meal of intimate fellowship.  That is where the relationship grows and bonds and becomes alive.  Let Jesus come in and let him develop the relationship of faith and hope and trust and joy with him.  He wants to be a part of your life.

John is helping the church see their behavior as Jesus sees it.  Their vision has been cut off due to their complacency.  They have relied upon themselves and not God.  By their own self-sufficiency they have shut Jesus out.

Jesus is calling them on it.  He loves them, so he will discipline them inviting them to repent and become committed again.  He promises them that if they will come alive, they will rule with him.  That does not mean we will be kings like Christ is king, but that as his people, we are the ruler’s people, we are his people.

You trusted in your riches and wealth and thought you were good.  But you are actually wretched and poor, blind and naked.  You are not as you think you are.  You have not examined and evaluated your life.  Because it is distasteful to me, if you remain this way, if you do not change, you do not let me in, then your eternity that you once trusted in is at stake.

 

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Identity Theft

Normally, I don’t share whole sermons.  Just on a rare occasion.  So I only share this one with you because of the critical nature of the issue.  This is a simple and short overview of identity theft from a spiritual perspective.  The devil himself is trying to rob you, the Christian of your identity in Christ.  This message deals with the individual with their life.  It doesn’t approach the fact that the devil tries to discredit Christianity through false religion that is seen in the public’s mind as associated with true Christianity, just from a personal perspective.  And, I didn’t give every strategy the devil uses just four and we still took over 35 minutes to share it Sunday morning.  You may listen to this message at http://www.newtestamentchristianonline.com/Sermons.dsp.  My prayer is that you will grow in faith and hope and the strength of the Lord.

“This is the last one folks, the concluding message of the Identity series.  We’ve identified God in our world and our lives, and we identified Jesus for who he is and what he does.  Our focus for the past couple of weeks has been on our lives; where we were before we came to Christ and who we are in Christ.

But one issue is still before us; Identity Theft!

Remember the Citibank commercials.  You see people who have been ripped off and see them talking but you hear the voice of the thief coming from their mouths bragging about what they bought with what they stole.  They’re comical to watch, but the subtlety of comedy comes home hard when we’re hit with the reality of it.

Identity theft is one of the biggest problems in America right now.  I am feeling the effects of it.  My driver’s license is due to be renewed this month.  In the past, I went in and my old license was enough to verify my identity with the license bureau.  I got a notice a few weeks ago that now I have to show my birth certificate and social security card to prove who I am.  My license that has verified my identity for almost 30 years is now not enough.

This stuff is serious.  We’re talking great danger here.  If someone can gain access to your bank account, your credit card account, or even your social security number, they can use your personal information and they can ruin more than just your credit.  It is much more than financial ruin.  If you have bad or ruined credit, it could keep you from getting some jobs even.  It could ruin your life and livelihood.

According to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ there’s several things identity thieves do with the information they’ve stolen:

  • They open credit card accounts or even change the billing address without your knowledge running up bills that you don’t know about and that you may and probably will be responsible for.
  • They open a phone account or even a utilities account in your name.
  • They may create counterfeit checks, or open a bank account and write bad checks in your name, or clone your debit card and make withdrawals or even acquire a loan in your name.
  • They may get a driver’s license or government ID in your name, use your SS# to receive government benefits, or file a fraudulent tax return.  All in your name.
  • They may get a job in your name, or rent an apartment or buy a house or even give your personal information during an arrest and when you don’t show up for their court date a warrant for your arrest may be issued.

Identity theft can ruin a person’s life and so there are things like “Identity Guard” and “Life Lock” – you know the guy with his SS# emblazoned on the side of a semi trailer advertised on national TV.  You pay for their service and they help protect your identity.

These identity thieves are everywhere too.

  • They dumpster dive and access your info from documents you throw away.
  • They do what is called skimming.  They steal credit card numbers with a special storage device when processing your card.
  • They phish.  Pretending to be financial institutions sending spam and pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  • They divert your billing information to another location by using a change of address.
  • They steal wallets and purses and mail, including bank statements, pre-approved credit card offers, new checks and tax information, personal records and even bribe employees who have access.
  • And they do something called pre-texting.  They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions.

It is widespread.  It is nationwide.  It is worldwide.  And though we really want to talk about spiritual identity theft, let me encourage you to be careful and learn how to protect yourself from what the identity theft I just described to you can do to you.

Last Sunday, we realized that we are in Christ.  If you are a Christian, you are in Christ.  In Christ means that you are different because you’ve been changed by Christ!  My preacher Kenny Washburn used to sing with Ed Erskine as the group, The Northmen.  They did a song that went, “I’ve been changed, I’ve been new-born now, all my life has been rearranged.  What a difference it made when the Lord came and stayed in my life, oh yes, I’ve been changed.

Here’s what we pointed out from 2 Corinthians 5:14-19a last week ( http://bible.logos.com/ ).

#1) Christ died for all so we have died too.  Christ died for our sins, he paid for every one of them, and when we are “in Christ” we have died to sin and sin no longer has power and control over us.

#2) Since Jesus died for us we no longer live for ourselves.  That’s what sin does it makes it all about me.  About my desires, about my longings and wants and reactions and feelings and all.  I no longer live selfishly in Christ.

#3) We are no longer recognized according to the flesh.  We are recognized according to the spirit of salvation.  God sees us not as sinners but saved in Christ.  And we see each other that way too.

#4) And so, anyone that is in Christ is a new creation.  Your life is changed.  It’s different just like the song said.

We are identified by Christ if we are in Christ.  That is why we own the name “CHRISTIAN!”  One who belongs to Christ!

Now . . . our identity in Christ can be compromised and you know who is behind it, the Devil!  His name is our first indicator that he is trouble.  It means, “deceiver.”  Jesus told us that the devil is a liar.  He has been one since the beginning.  John 8:44, “…the devil – was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  His mode of operation is to deceive.  That’s what Jesus means by saying he is a murderer.  He is killing people’s souls as he leads them astray and he’s the best there is when it comes to deceiving and what he wants to do with you is to steal your identity so that at least two things are accomplished.

  1. He makes you an ineffective witness.  You will either suffer guilt and fail to be a witness to Christ, or your witness is scoffed at by others because you’ve become a hypocrite.
  2. And/or He will lead you away from faith in Christ and God will no longer recognize you.

Do you know what he does?

  • Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.  His purpose is destruction and he rarely comes with a frontal attack like in battles we read about during the Revolutionary or Civil Wars.  “Charge!” He is subtle and sneaky, like the identity thieves I described earlier using all their tricky methods to steal from you . . . with your permission.
  • He has schemes.  You probably knew that.  “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Ephesians 6:11.  His schemes are not productive strategies like a corporation planning growth and effectiveness, his are tricks and lies and he lays them as traps for you.

Let me warn you that even you don’t have to be a new Christian or a Christian that is in the early stages of maturity for the devil to trick you, for you to fall and the devil to take your identity in Christ and twist and pervert who you are in Christ, hoping to ruin your salvation, hoping to stop your witness.

Obviously, new Christians are susceptible, but long-time Christians can be too.  Ones who believe they’ve arrived already, that heaven is the only thing left for them, even believing the devil can’t trick ME!

Just because you know and understand a lot does not mean the devil cannot trick you.

Let’s see some of the devil’s strategies.

Strategy #1 – Getting Us to Believe that We are Our Behavior.

Bad experiences or painful pasts can negatively affect our present. The devil wants us to believe that we are the only ones who suffer with these issues and that it is unchangeable. This is simply not true. Too often our sin and emotional baggage gets linked to what we believe about ourselves. In other words, our personality and identity becomes associated with the things we struggle with.

The strategy of the enemy is for us to believe that we actually “are” how we feel or behave, which is not true at all. Satan wants you to believe things like: you “are” depressed, unhappy, worthless, unable to change, stupid, a failure…the list could go on and on. It is important to realize that our feelings and behavior are situational and we can change them—the truth is feelings and behavior are not who we really are. They might be things that we struggle with, but they are not our identity, or who we are in Christ.

This includes the things that you may think about yourself at a deep level. You might not consciously believe them, but you find yourself thinking them or saying them about yourself on a regular basis. Most people don’t see that there is a direct connection between the way they view themselves and their destiny.

“For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7

Strategy #2 – Getting Us to Believe that We Don’t Measure Up Spiritually

This is seen in a couple of ways.  I became a Christian but after a while, a year or two, I haven’t been as good a Christian as I should have been, or I’ve sinned a lot and I need to be baptized again.  That happened to me and fortunately, I have a wise man for a father.  He directed me to realize that I simply needed to ask forgiveness and be truly repentant and let God effect lasting change and holiness in my life.  You know 1 John 1:9 (http://bible.logos.com/) .

Another way is that I never seem to do all the spiritual things I think I see others doing.  Reading their Bible everyday and studying and meditating on it and appearing to keep themselves pure and sinless all the time.  My life doesn’t seem to be transformed, enough.

If I don’t measure up in a way that I seem to think is the only correct way to holiness than I am defeated and lose interest and passion for Christ.  I still try to be a Christian, but I am less than excited that I am.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” Romans 12:2

Strategy #3 – Getting Us to Believe Differently Than the Bible Teaches

We live by grace, yet there are still commands and ways that we are to live in Christ and the Bible, the New Testament especially, provides that understanding for us.

But how many times have you and I heard of Christians who purposely pick and choose what they want to believe and obey.  There is a cartoon that shows a church sign that says “The Lite Church.  We only require 7 Commandments and you can choose the ones you want to obey.” We see that cartoon in Leadership magazine and chuckle, but every joke possesses some truth.

We can take away from the Scripture, at the same time, we can add to the Scripture.  We’re warned in Revelation not to do that.  That’s kind of what the Pharisees were doing, adding their ideas that were interpretations of how to obey the Law of God, given my Moses but they made the teachings equal in authority as Scripture.

Jesus said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words, will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35

Strategy #4 – Getting Us to Give Up and Reject the Faith

We all know someone who was a Christian and for whatever reason, they turned their back on Christ and the Church.  The man whose wife was killed in a tornado, the preacher’s son who rejected his father’s faith because he was a tyrant, the son who prayed that his mother would get well but still died and rejected God, and the list is endless of Christians who have turned away from the faith.

If we are truly saved and we turn our back on God, then the devil has renewed our old identity in us.

If he can instill doubts about our faith, then it is possible for him to drive a wedge between us and Christ.  It is possible for him to lead into faithlessness.

A couple of the soils in the parable of the Sower are this very situation.  “Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered.  Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them.” Matthew 13:5-7

Peter told us that the devil is like a roaring lion looking for those he can devour.  Those he can destroy and turn away from God.

How do we overcome?  How do we protect ourselves and keep the devil from stealing and changing our identity in Christ?

The simple answer is the principle of faith – maintain faith and trust in God and Jesus Christ, obeying all that he says.  But let’s be a little more specific.

Protectant #1 – Romans 12:1-2 http://bible.logos.com/

  • Commit yourselves completely to God.  He is your focus.  He is your only source for life and for what is right.
  • Do not allow yourself to be caught up in the “sinful, ungodly” ways of this world.
  • Be transformed by letting God renew your mind and that is done mostly through knowing and living the word of God (it has to be both, you can’t have one without the other), and faithfulness and prayer.

Protectant #2 – Ephesians 6:10-13 (cf. 14-18) http://bible.logos.com/

  • Let God strengthen you to stand firm.  You will fail on your own or if you follow some other way but God alone can provide you with strength to withstand the devil’s missiles.
  • Put on all of God’s armor.  Not just this or that piece, but every piece; truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, God’s Word, and prayer.  Don’t leave any part out.  You’ll be sorry.
  • If you do this, you will be able to resist devil.  In fact, we are told that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7).  This is the stuff of resistance.

Protectant #3 – Galatians 5:16 http://bible.logos.com/

  • Walk by the Spirit of God.  If we are led by God’s Spirit, the works of the flesh, the evil desires of sin will not have a hold of us and drag us away into spiritual death.
  • The characteristics of those who walk by the Spirit are the fruit of the Spirit, vv. 22-23; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.

Protectant #4 – Matthew 22:37-40 http://bible.logos.com/

  • First of all love God with all your being.  With how you think and feel, with what your desires are and with what you do.  Love God so much that your only desire is to worship and please him through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Second, love each other.  We need to be there for each other, caring for each other, helping each other, holding each other accountable to God’s word and way and letting others care for us in the same way.
  • This is fellowship with God and fellowship with God’s people.  We are a community of faith and if we let one person stray, well, let’s just not go there.

We could spend a lot of time giving the devil’s strategies and the ways to protect ourselves from the devil stealing our Christian identity.

Let me conclude things by pointing out that God sees us as who we are becoming, through his love and power.  He looks at our lives and he knows our past and understands our present and can see us in the future.  Imagine what the possibilities are if we would see ourselves as God sees us.

That is where the “Principle of Faith” allows us to trust that there is something special and unique for us.  There is certainty in who we are.  “Now faith is the being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

The foundation of my life is this: In Christ, I am a new creation, and all the old thoughts and behaviors no longer have power over me.  I am being renewed every day with God’s love and character.  I share in God’s divine nature because God’s Spirit lives in me.  I am free from condemnation and have the strength to live my life free of despairing thoughts and the competing desires of the flesh and the world.

I am God’s workmanship, created to do good works, which God has prepared ahead of time for me to accomplish.  I am more than a conqueror through God who loves me.  I am increasing daily in faith, strength, wisdom, and love and I am able to love others because God has loved me first.

Is that your identity?  That is the identity God wants to give you and the devil wants to take from you.  If you are in Christ, than you belong to God and that is what we offer to you today….

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What does it mean to be “In Christ?”

If all of life has purpose, the single most important purpose is to know Jesus Christ.  And the burning question may be why?  Why do I need to know Jesus Christ?

Jesus is the single way to know and experience God.  It figures since God sent him for that purpose and that he is the “Son of God” (meaning ordained/chosen by God not a physical son).

Romans 6 and 8 talk about being in Christ (6:11, 23; 8:1, 39).  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us what it means to be in Christ, “Whoever is in Christ is now a new creation.

In Christ we are made new.  Whatever we were, sinful sinners, the person we were, has been made new.  The character of our human nature has changed in Christ, therefore we are new.

So Romans 6:11; we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.  Sin doesn’t rule in our lives anymore.  It has no power over us.  It cannot make us its prisoner if we are in Christ.

Romans 6:23; the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In Christ, we experience eternal life.  That’s the forever moment with God.  Given to us now, in Christ, with future promises.

Romans 8:1; there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  That old self was set for destruction, meaning, eternal punishment, but the new self (new creation) is no longer condemned.

Romans 8:39; (nothing) will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  In Christ, we are never separated from and nothing can remove us from God’s love, in Christ.

Even Romans 12:5; in Christ we who are many form one body.  It’s interesting that so many different backgrounds (socially, ethnically, economically, educationally, etc) all come together into one body, one union of faith and belief and hope.

We are made new.  We become what God intended for us in the first place, in Christ.

In fact, in Christ, God says, “I know who you are.”  Before, when we were outside of Christ, God didn’t know us.  He couldn’t, he doesn’t have anything to do with sin.  As sinners, he wouldn’t.  But, in Christ he can.  Christ is without sin.  Christ’s sacrifice paid for our sin.  Our faith joins us with Christ and through our union with Christ, God forgives our sin, and makes us his heirs with Christ and that’s when he knows us.

God chooses to forget your sin, but he knows who you are and what you are tempted too and strengthens you and empowers you and with that you will stand.

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My Identity

Who Am I?

From the moment we’re born we go through changes.  Our environment changes.  We were safe and comfortable in our mother’s womb and then, the climate changes, there is light, the sounds are new, and we begin to experience life on the outside.  Each moment is new and our bodies change.  The changes are more frequent the younger we are but we continue to change (hair color, the amount of hair, weight, sagging parts of our body, etc.  Smile, it happens).

We also try to find our place in this world.  In one way or another, we struggle with who we are and who we want to and who we will become.  We struggle with the why’s and our chances and choices have the greatest effect on what happens in our lives.

Usually what we choose in any given situation is based on what we have through experience found to work.  Like one child whose mom was a drug addict.  She would get high and be out of it for a couple of days or more.  Her child, a toddler, would be left to himself and cry because he was hungry and his diaper needed changed.  She would only do something about it when she was coming down and only to stop his crying.  It was annoying, but her little boy needed nurturing and care.

He eventually learned to fend for himself and when he was removed from his mother, he was given to an aunt who wasn’t much better.  She did similar things and didn’t care for him a whole lot better.  Since he had to learn to fend for himself so much, as a teen,

Who Am I?

whenever issues arose, he would go into his protective mode and try to do things physically and emotionally which prevented him from having healthy relationships with anyone.

We are always trying to find our place in life.  Since life is constant change, we are still trying to find where we belong.  And for some of us, it is hard.

The Harry Potter series of movies is interesting in that it is the prolonged and compelling story of a boy who is trying to find his place in this world.  His world is toppled barely before he gets started in this world.  Losing his parents he is thrown in with an uncaring, unfair, and unkind aunt and uncle.  When he finds out that he possesses magical abilities and attends a school of magic, his first choices are his friends and into which house he will be with.  He is constantly pursued by the bad guy and Harry’s has to make choices based on what he knows and understands and it affects the whole world around him.  His world and his friends world as well.

Harry Potter is about figuring out where he fits in the world.

God has a place in this world for each of us.  But our identity is bound to Christ.  Because our identity is ultimately about where will be in the end.  There are only two choices, heaven or hell.  Moving in with God or being thrown in the prison made for the devil.

If I am in Christ, I am identified by Christ.  I am identified by his blood and by his character and my place in this world and in the world to come is a part of God’s kingdom.

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Identified by Faith

I took one of our teens to an area youth rally.  He is always excited about youth rallies and church camp.  Chris Wise spoke about two different stones in the Bible; boundary stones and stumbling stones.  On the way home, he told me how he and his new girlfriend had already set boundaries.

I saw the presence of God in that young man.  I saw faith in God in action.

How do we identify God besides in creation, through faith.  Faith that is “active” as the book of James might say.  I’ll  show you my faith by my actions.

How did we know who Jesus was initially? By his deeds.  He helped and healed and cast out demons and just plain showed people goodness and kindness.  They knew he was from God, that God was with him.  They knew that God had sent him.

Look to Jesus to see God, but our examination is about God in us and how faith identifies God.

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Is God in me?

A long time ago, I determined that I wanted people to see the presence of God in me. My desire is that whenever people encounter me, I have placed myself so into God that through the encounter, whether once, or a hundred times, they realized I have been in God’s presence and God is reaching into their life through me.

I have been given a lot of opportunities for God to shine through me.  Countless hours sitting with families as their loved ones go through surgeries.  Endless days staying with hospital patients, holding the hands of several as they died and passed on from this world.  I have been with families when they were suffering from grief when their sons died in tragic vehicle accidents, and preached their funerals and the funerals of murder victims, and the list would seem endless if I continued.

I have been blessed to serve God’s compassion to a lot of people because he has chosen to give me that capability.

How is it that we identify God by our faith?   That is what we will be examining.

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