I know, I kind of abandoned ship for a spell. I’m sorry to leave you hanging! As of late, my faith seems to be a work in progress. Kind of like when Paul talks about “working out your faith.” Yes ma’am, that’s what I’ve been doing, workin’ things out intellectually and spiritually.
A few months ago I sit in a messy gym office where my girls take gymnastics. Mamas gather around in a cramped circle to find out whether or not they can add “team” to their plates. The owner of the gym talks all informative and lays down team rules and regulations. In a pitch to draw us in she says, “Your children need an identity. They need to belong to a group, a team.” Now I am not saying that gym team is bad, no ma’am. But in the moment, the Holy Spirit begins to churn something in the pit of my stomach.
That’s my Jesus’ message to me. His message to my girls. The message that’s been chasing me for weeks.
Oddly, my middle school years suddenly come to mind. I being super shy want to fit in. My uncoordinated lanky-leggy self, strolls down halls in my button down with rolled up sleeves, britches yanked up to my navel, and my wavy perm which is later dubbed “a bird’s nest.” Apparently, this business is not cool. I like Homek but I can barely stitch a Christmas pillow for my mama. I like basketball but I need glasses and can’t see the goal. I like kickball but trippin’-n-fallin’ is more my game. I try and figure out who I am by looking around at everybody else. Am I an athlete? A nerd? A brain? Which group do I fit in?
This identity thing doesn’t end with middle school or high school or even college. We continually define and redefine ourselves. We do this through our jobs, our homes, our cars, our kids, and our fitness level. Every day we communicate something, “I want to be seen or I want to be perceived this way.” This is hog wash in the eyes of God and it should be to us too.
Paul tells us in Philippians 3 we find who we are not in the external but the internal. Instead of defining ourselves based on what we do or what group we associate with, the Gospel would have us remember what Christ has done.
Therefore my identity, your identity is in Him, built completely on Him and nothing else. When we go outside of Him to determine our identities we actually engage in idolatry. In the sense idolatry says, “I will not be defined by God, I am going to be defined by other things like gymnastics or music or even my home.” We start holding onto these things so tightly that when God wants them, we won’t give them up because we think they define who we are.
On the ride home with gym bags and musical instruments in toe, I think of what Paul told the Philippian church: remember to whom you are united and the place where your real citizenship rests. Our citizenship, our identity is found in heaven, it is found in Christ.
We are hidden in Him (Col. 3:3); we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).
Sweet sister remember your identity.
Remember who you are.
You are His.
You have, have had, and will always have an identity in the One worth identifying with!
“But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20, NET Bible).
“To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12-13).
Saturday I drug my sweet friend Michelle to see a Beth Moore Simulcast! Beth challenged all of us seated in the audience to write our own obituary. Let me explain. So many of us still carry our old dead self on our backs even though we are new creations in Christ. Why do we do this? Anyhoo, she challenged us to kill off our old dead self once and for all so here is mine ~ it is meant to be funny and a little serious! I challenge you to do the same:)
* * * * * *
Kelli Zaniel, raised a southern belle, had a hankering for Chick-fil-A, Krispy Crème, banana clips, and Scarlett O’Hara died on September 21, 1980, at the First Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia. The 5 year old walked the aisle sweaty palms and all and said, “Bye to her old self and hey to Jesus girl status…bless her heart!” Her dead self floated off in the baptismal waters of grace as a congregation shouted, “Amen new sista!”
She, being drenched in Southern Baptist churchin’ until it almost choked her ever living self, attended every Sunday, Wednesday night suppers, Girls in Action, and kicked some tail in the Bible Drills.
She attended youth group. She even re-dedicated her life to Christ at camp somewhere in between river rafting and flirting with a redneck-fly-fishing-wannabe. Don’t judge, we didn’t have lots to choose from!
These little excursions on the youth bus were great to combat feelings of not measuring up. She felt when she didn’t act right, she disappointed God. She didn’t get up every morning with a fresh, new gush of grace pouring over her like sweet tea in a cold mason jar. Naw. Instead, she rolled the covers back over a diseased body because she wouldn’t let God carry it, her weakness that is. The funny thing? No one even knew she was sick!
Her new life began to look visually assaulting from the inside out. She asked for bread, but it wasn’t daily…maybe monthly or even yearly after a spell. By golly that girl was parched and needed some nourishment, right quick. Other church goers were slack-jawed when her first marriage ended. They couldn’t see past the veil of the D-Word and into the eyes of her broken, abandoned, and abused heart. She felt cast out like a fishing wire only it didn’t get reeled in. She became like the adulterous woman with her future written in the sand…by her accusers.
She had a love affair with the Christian bubble and became a veteran people pleaser. She compartmentalized her faith too. And … for heaven’s sake’s good Bible study girls never let the lines between church, school, and normal life blur. She was a sinner but thought she was a saint; blind but thought she could see, and sick but thought she was well. She walked into church with her panty hose and heels but come to find out, she was lame too!
While sittin’ in church one Sunday y’all know what she did? She got down on the floor and began given mouth to mouth resuscitation to her old self that died a while back. She wouldn’t let it die. She kept carrying it across her shoulders and squeezing it underneath her arms. She dusted it off and took it to parties and out all night. I’m pretty sure she and that old self did stuff that would make you want to slap your granny! Yep, she kept on massaging the heart of old man sin and got herself into a whole heap of trouble. Yes Ma’am.
The opportunities in her life to share the Gospel were numerous. Unfortunately, she busied herself with so many OTHER things… kind of like Miss Martha. I mean that girl got so distracted she could rack up a bill at the Rich’s and the Parisians Department Stores. She and her old self were well dressed and seemingly put together but underneath…they were hog-wild. They chased earthly treasures instead of the eternal ones. Years past and she went and married a nice law-yur fella from (Las Vegas – eewww). Yep, she left the belt – had some kids and relocated to Reno, Nevada where she came to life again. One day after the babies were napping and the house all a hush, God had his way with her. He totally wrecked her and turned her world upside down. God said, “Girl we’ve got to kill that old dead self for good because you keep bringing it back to life and it’s ruining you! Old man sin flung over your back is taking the place of the cross I have asked you to carry. Don’t you realize there is no door too scandalous for me to walk through?” Ouch that stung but oh how sweet!
Kelli’s old self finally died in her home in 2006… for good. She put to death the rattling chains of shame and condemnation that had been clanking around in her life. She understood what it really meant to follow Jesus. She described the experience like opening the eyes of the blind during a beautiful sunrise; a stunned silence before unspeakable holiness; and a shocked terror over her own preference for darkness. And then the faith came, like a rushing roar hovering above. The confidence that Christ made a way for her, a sinner, to live in His glorious fellowship, to give her the desires of her heart, and to behold his glory forever.
Yes Sir, Kelli still loved eating more chicken while watching “Gone with the Wind” when her old self died (the banana clip got put to death with the old self)! Even more than those things, she had a hankering for digging holes in strange fields claiming she’d found a treasure; for living a life unexplained without the presence of the Holy Spirit; for denying herself and counting the cost. Yep, there was no more stinking to high heaven with the odor of death over her like a bad shirt! Nope, death no longer had a sting; it no longer smothered her; it no longer owned her …. She had been set free; her load lightened. Free to accept unmerited favor. Free to accept gushes of grace. Free to live like she believed!
Turquoise water, pink sand, and our tenth wedding anniversary…
Two years ago my husband and I return to our honeymoon destination. Off the clock and away from the stove, we sleep late, snorkel, and eat more seafood than should be legal. We especially love snorkeling together. We plop beach towels and snorkel gear down on a remote beach. Waves gently crash against the sand and out we go flippers and all. We swim around like crazed children in the ocean for the first time.
When the sun’s sparkle begins a colorful descent across the sky I know ~ we’ve been swimming all day. Relishing the tired-happy satisfaction that comes from hours of salt water, sun-burn, and brightly colored fish, we pop up over white caps for a break. We notice the current gently ushered us down the beach. Our eyes scan with no familiar points of reference in site. Our little makeshift cabana is a mile down the beach. We drifted away from camp and never noticed until we couldn’t find our way back.
I never intend to drift so far that I separate myself from the familiar mile markers. But drift happens in my life and not just in the ocean on a snorkeling excursion, but in my relationship with God too. It’s as inevitable as the rushing tide ~ if I don’t focus on where I am and in whom I serve I will float away from my priorities, my purpose. For me, the drift is a symptom of coming unhinged, unanchored from my convictions, my values, and my intimacy with God.
Maybe you are hugging the shoreline with confidence. But if you’re like me, maybe you wonder if a trip downstream just might just do you some good. Hebrews 2:1 warns against the drift: “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Revelation 3:2-3 tells us drifters to “Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.”
If you’ve been following Jesus for a while, you know the tide’s rise and fall can sometimes get us sidetracked from God. The undercurrent can potentially shift us away from the warmth of God and into lukewarm waters of the world. We know what the Bible says about tepid water and we don’t want to make God puke, do we?
Floods of normalcy will sweep us away from God’s best at every opportunity if we let it. When we allow ourselves to go with the flow so to speak, we drift away from the solid rock of God’s presence in our lives. We drift and think things are fine until one day we look up and we’re not where we thought we’d be. God is not the drifter, we are…He is there on the shore where he has always been and will continue to be. We are the ones who ride waves to other destinations whether deliberate or not.
Going forward on this Thursday morning I need to pay attention to where I am, where I want to go, and the direction of God’s current. I must remain tethered to Him, my first love, and be securely tied to Him alone… this will prevent my drift; this will prevent your drift too.
When you glance back toward the shoreline, where are you in relationship to where you once were with God?
I can’t believe it has been over three months since I last heard from my friend Bobbie. I can’t believe it has been six months since I cupped the faces of her children and told them Jesus loves them.
I remember the last time we met.
Her bright blue eyes full of uncertainty and hope and longing. We slurp hot chocolate fluffed with extra whip cream. We laugh and wipe away sugary mustaches suspended beneath our noses. We talk about Jesus and family and the future over IHop’s big slam breakfast. This is the last time I see her. The last time I get to minister to her. Not wanting to waste opportunities to love her like Christ, I call, I text. After much persistence she responds via text message, “Things aren’t going well, please pray.”
The children’s foster care worker doesn’t say much either. “He lost his job and they aren’t doing well,” she says hesitantly. My heart skips because I know. They may not get their kids back…ever.Maybe this is God’s plan, His journey for them… only our paths don’t cross anymore.Sometimes I remind myself to breathe deep. This journey of sharing the Gospel, entering life with people is messy and sometimes discouraging. Truth be told, in the late night hours alone with the Father, I sob until the words won’t come, “Why can’t they make it? Why can’t they experience you making the impossible, possible? Why can’t they know that to touch your robe is to live?”
And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well (Matthew 9:20-22).
I see this woman so clearly. I resonate deeply with…
her raw emotion.
I see her weak yet persistent fingers strain for a graze against the fringe of his robe. I see her longing only for Him; a longing satisfied by His touch, his eyes locking with hers.
I am the woman with the issue of blood. Only I am the woman with the issue of doubt. I am the woman with the issue of sin, the issue of flesh, the issue of self-indulgence. I am a woman who wants to snap her arms shut across her chest like a rubber band to protect rawness in her heart.
The woman with the issue of blood reminds me…
The reach is worth the risk.
The strain against vulnerability for an encounter with my Savor is worth exposure.
The lunge across a crowded street for healing is meant for all people with all kinds of issues. But I notice something obvious. I can’t fold my arms and reach for my Savior all at once. Like the woman with the issue of blood I must throw normalcy to the wind, fling out expectant arms and reach, reach like crazy… for the One who says, “I am the true vine,” “I am the door,” “I am the bread of life,” I am the good shepherd.”And just like this woman I must seek Him; pursue Him; long for Him… if only to “touch the fringe of his garment.”
If you find yourself straining for Him across a crowded street, over a difficult situation, against a wall of doubt… just know my sweet sister that His robe is long and his hem is wide…wide enough for you and for me.
What will you do?
Will you hold back?
If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender…
Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.
By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God.
Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis— only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God.
~Oswald Chambers (Utmost for His Highest)
I steal a moment in the prayer closet.
More than I crave anything else today, I crave communion with my heavenly daddy. I begin to write, paraphrase really, Psalm 119: 81-170:
I am worn out waiting but I put my hope in your Word;
My eyes are straining to see your promises come true;
As pressure and stress bear down, I find joy in your commands.
When will you comfort me?
There are deep pits to trap me; but your word is my constant guide and I know everything serves your plans.
Your commands give me life…I am yours.
You are my shield, my refuge; please do not let me be crushed.
I will lift up my cup of salvation…
I will lift it high so that I may catch a drop of your grace… grace that spills forth against your palm and forever sets me free.
Suddenly, my prayer closet moment is interrupted by a tiny whimper from downstairs. I put down my tear-stained, heavily-written-in-Bible and survey the damage.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
In her little girl voice she says, “Mama my leg hurts and I can’t stand up.”
I cup her face and bend down to listen.
Her muttered words tucked in between lowly cries.
I place my hands underneath her tiny arms and set her on her feet.
Her knee bends and the shrill sharpens, “It still hurts!”
So I carry her.
I carry her like a wounded lamb into the den.
I lay her on the couch. Things seem to improve and tears subside.
My own knees buckle as I am overwhelmed by God’s presence. He nudges my heart in a way it hasn’t been nudged in a while.
I listen close and he impresses this on my heart:
“I know your voice and you know mine. I hear you crying out to me and I bend down to listen. I see your trouble and I come to you. I will wipe your tears. I will pick you up when you stumble; carry you when your wounds are too great. I see you walking along the path of my commands and I love you. I am on your side and I will protect you. Sometimes you wander away like a little lost sheep, but don’t worry… I will always come and find you.”
My own tears of joy stream as I pen these words. My cup of salvation overflows with joy that comes from KNOWING Christ died for me and a LONGING to give my whole heart, my whole life back to serving Him.
The joy that comes from hearing His small voice reassure me at the exact moment her small voice cries out for me.
I think you’ll agree with me… we are weak in our own skin. Because of this we tend to get easily taken in by the multitude of negatives in life…
Worry targets us and literally runs us down to the ground.
Discouragement seeps in like a slow leak and before we know it we are drowning in it.
Doubt dangles itself before us tempting and threatening all that we believe is true in our hearts.
And, Fear allusively edges itself in around the corners of our mind… wraps its bar-like fingers around us and holds us captive.
Yet, we are told over and over as believers in Jesus that we should not worry, that we should ignore discouraging thoughts, that if we doubt or fall prey to fear than we are not trusting Christ.
But, I object.
To continue reading head on over to Encourage24/7 where I am guest posting today!