In The Shadows…

Shadow

(FreeImages.com/PetraStarke)

Ever felt like you are living in the shadows?

Something I have heard repeatedly in my mind is the line: “You are in the shadows.”  I believe that repeated thought was a lie from the enemy to get me to believe that I was inferior, insignificant, and overlooked. 

I remember when the lie first started.  Part of it happened when I had a best friend at age 12.  I remember when she gave me one of those Best Friend necklaces, where I had half of a heart, and she had the other.  Then, I remember not long after she gave me the necklace that I introduced her to a girl who had recently moved into her neighborhood.  I remember the pain of discovering they had become each other’s best friends.

The pain of rejection is something that you don’t easily forget.

I remember having birthday parties and my friends attending, but I remember the pain of feeling overlooked.  My older sister had a fun, outgoing personality, and my friends couldn’t help but like her.  My birthday party was spent with my friends hanging on to my sister’s every funny statement and her winning smile.  My sister didn’t mean anything by this; it just happened, but I felt forgotten and overlooked.  It was painful to know that the birthday girl could disappear, and no one would seem to care a whole lot.

I remember the time when someone said to me, “It must be hard to live in your sister’s shadow.”  And the time when a friend said (was meant as a compliment): “You are almost as pretty as your sister.”  Those statements stuck with me, and I began to believe that I was less than and in the shadows.  I concluded that God must not love me as much because He decided that I didn’t need as much charisma or to be as beautiful on the outside.  That was the beginning spiral of coming to resent who I was, how I was made, and added to the lies already in place that I wasn’t loved as much.

Fast forward a few decades, and God had done a lot of healing in my life, but there were still layers, and the old wounds of rejection could be a memory quickly resurrected.

I remember how not that long ago, I was sitting with friends, feeling those old lies of insecurity, knowing that I was not the central focus and taking the sideline position once again. The problem is I hadn’t chosen to stay on the sidelines because of loving others and being other-focused.  I was partially taking that position for that reason, but I was living the lies of insecurity, inferiority, and rejection once again.

God pulled me from that low place, and my focus was re-centered once again.  I was once again walking from a position of wholeness rather than brokenness.

As life goes, it doesn’t take long before a circumstance or person triggers a memory from the past, and we are quickly swept back into the feelings of rejection and inferiority. 

I wasn’t swept away in the avalanche of old patterns, but I knew that I had to replace the old lies with truth. 

This morning, I opened my Bible with the anticipation that God would minister to my aching heart.  I asked Him to speak to me where I am, and He did!

God began to answer the lie about shadows with the truth.  What He showed me is this:

“I am not set aside; I am set apart.”  He began to show me that “my situation is not about me being overlooked but about me being prepared.”  (Borrowing these quotes from Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited.)

God keeps bringing John 3:30 back to my mind this year, and He did once again this morning.  What God was reminding me is that “when we decrease God has room to make big things happen.” (Borrowing these quotes from Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited.)

God is preparing me for authentic ministry, and authentic ministry comes from a full place in God so that I don’t look to others within ministry to validate me.

Authentic ministry means I need to be God-aware and others-focused so that I don’t worry about me.  Until I get this, I cannot be in a place to adequately give to others.

Ministry isn’t about me receiving.  It’s about me giving.  I don’t need to receive from a ministry when I have entered into authentic ministry from a position of having been filled and being filled.  Out of that fullness or abundance flows life and love to others, and that is authentic ministry.

I have an entirely different perspective on the term “shadows” now.  Satan has been attempting to speak defeat into my ears.  God though is saying the sidelines is a good place to be if it means you have let God have the limelight. 

If I am constantly trying to step into the limelight, then it becomes not about me claiming my rightful place or showing others I have worth.  Rather, it’s me taking God’s place. 

This doesn’t mean I won’t ever be in the “limelight” physically, but within my soul, there must first be this bowing to the One greater than me — this realization that the limelight is not mine, but to stand there to bring Jesus into the limelight.

I let self take a shadowed or dying position so that Christ’s life in me can grow.  It’s the death of self.

The real me — the life and identity of Christ, uniquely represented in me — is what will grow and flourish and have room to breathe the more the false identity and false self dies.

I no longer need to fear the shadows because I have not been set aside but set apart to a significant and special calling!

God is helping me to live out the reality of the verse He gave me for this year:

John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Running On Empty?

glass

(FreeImages.com/MargaritRalev)

I started this year with a theme/verse that God had given to me: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)  The theme was freedom from self.

Let me tell you, when you know you are called to a place of dying more to self so that you might live more in Christ, the battle is not going to be easy!  This entire year so far has been full of many wonderful God-moments, but it has also held some huge attacks against my identity.

I have written numerous blog posts about identity because this topic is so incredibly important and is very dear to my heart.

You might be asking, “What does identity have to do with feeling like I am not just running on empty but I am dried up, cracked, and brittle?”

Talk about busy!!!  We are down to 5-6 weeks left in the school year.  The end is in sight, but there is so much to accomplish at the end.  Summer sounds like a “breather,” but for those of you who have some or all of your kids in school, it’s a different kind of busy.

In the 21st century, “busy” is such a common description that if you ask someone how they are doing, 95-percent of the time, they will answer, “Busy!”

I understand that we can’t ignore busyness all together and live.   I have five kids.  I home-school two of them, two are in private school, and I have a 3-year-old who desperately needs to be potty-trained.  I have a side business.  I try to stay connected with people.  I am a soccer-mom, basketball-mom, and swim-mom, during the typical seasons.  I run to allergy shot appointments every 3 weeks, orthodontist appointments for three people regularly,  and at least 22 other medical appointments in a year that are just for regular maintenance (optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist).  I run to fix retainers and glasses that seem to constantly be getting bent or stretched.

So, if busyness comes with the territory of living, how can I avoid the never-ending feelings of emptiness that result so often?

Is the issue the busyness, or is it something else?  Is busyness the root cause of my emptiness or merely a symptom of the root cause?

To start to answer these questions, let me share a little of my recent experiences with you.

I knew I needed a spiritual “re-alignment” recently.  When I started to feel those old feelings of insecurity rearing their ugly heads, I knew I was it was time to come in for a “tune-up.” 

Feeling hyper-sensitivity, feeling really “low,” feeling jealous, feeling insecure, feeling a desperate need for validation and affirmation?  Those are dead-giveaways that there is a core problem that can’t be fixed with more pats on the heads, a platform, a position, a vacation, a new outfit, a horizon, a new vocation, or a new decoration.  In fact, those very things will continue to feed the feelings of emptiness and discontent.  They will satisfy fleetingly, but there is a never-ending need for more…

The other day, I took the kids to a nature center/park.  My 5-year-old daughter was immediately drawn to the shiny appearance of Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) that they had for sale.  I decided to purchase the large rock because I knew it would make a great object lesson and also would be a good reminder to me.

Pyrite has the appearance of something of value, but the reality is that it doesn’t hold the core qualities that distinguish it from the similar appearance of real gold.  See the following article on differences: https://www.thermofisher.com/blog/mining/pyrite-the-real-story-behind-fools-gold/ and http://www.minerals.net/mineral/gold.aspx.

It is interesting that Pyrite is brittle and can’t bend like real gold.  The mineral structure of Pyrite is mostly sulfuric.  The appearances of gold and Pyrite is similar, and they can be found in similar rock-beds, but the structure is different and thus is their use.

Pyrite reminded me of how we often search for the value of something, based on its appearance.  Does it look like success?  Does it look like prosperity?  Does it look like affirmation?  Does it look like security?  Does it look like beauty?  Does it look like fame?  Does it look like comfort?

What if the value of something isn’t in its appearance but in its core?  What if it’s the structure of the thing itself that determines whether it will hold up or whether it will crumble under pressure?

During part of my “re-alignment” time, God was showing me that I had been following after fulfillment based on the appearance of things: their appeal.  What He reminded me is that the most important things — the real blessings are not out there.  Rather, they are always right in front of us. 

God doesn’t dangle His blessings on a string and then keep pulling them back further the closer we get to them.  Rather, His blessings are often the gems hidden in the foundation of our every day lives.  God places His most priceless treasures in the framework of our daily lives — within the gritty, dull, hard surfaces of our lives.  It’s mixed in the hard grind of our daily and in the muddy, messy of authentic ministry.

Why do we rush after the appeal of appearances? 

What drives the empty to pursue the empty?

A friend recently gave me the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  I want to share a few powerful quotes from her book:

Indeed, the world entices your flesh but never embraces your soul.

We run at breakneck pace to try and achieve what God simply wants us to slow down enough to receive.

Imagine a little girl running with a cup in her hand, sloshing out all it contains.  She thinks what will refill her is just ahead.  Just a little farther.  She presses on with sheer determination and clenched teeth and an empty cup clutched tight.

She keeps running toward an agenda He never set and one that will never satisfy.  She sees Him and holds out her cup.  But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him, because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up.  Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty: where your hands are full, but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling — all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace.

Why do we run to agendas, people, things, and appearances?  What is the draw?

The answer is you look for fulfillment out there when you are empty inside.

Remember, the verse I mentioned at the beginning?  …the one about Him increasing and me decreasing?

You know what truth came to me as I was getting my “tune-up”?  It was that I had been trying to find my worth again in myself. 

You see, it’s not about the agendas, people, things, fortune, fame, and appearances out there.  What we are really seeking is to find something out there to satisfy me, to validate me, to fill me, to secure me, and to give me a sense of worth.

That’s why it is so dangerous to pursue those things from a place of emptiness.  You are not after those things necessarily because of the thing or people themselves.  You are after what you hope to get from those things or relationships.

Look at relationships.  Know what happens when we try to pull from people our sense of worth?  This is what happens: rejection, shame, pride, insecurity, judgement, selfishness, comparisons, jealousy, labels…

As Christians, the deception is even more subtle sometimes.  We look to ministries and service for our fulfillment.  It is so hard to see through to the truth of our motives because we can cover them in so many “right-sounding” words.

I believe this: I believe that God’s invitation isn’t to serve Him.  I believe the invitation is to be loved by Him and for Him to love through us.  The focus really isn’t on serving; it’s on being loved by God and letting His love flow through us to others in tangible ways.  Otherwise, we’ll attach “strings” to people so that we can attempt to pull from them what we lack and which only God can fill.  This kind of “love” isn’t really love but selfish manipulation of people to ultimately feed my sense of worth.

This profound truth recently “struck” me: Authentic love produces authentic righteousness.  If we try to live righteous lives to find worth, to attempt to prove our worth before God, we will only produce self-righteousness, which isn’t righteous at all.  When we are still trying to figure out our own worth, we will bury ourselves under layers of ministry, “righteous” labels, and appearances, but the core motivation is once again an attempt to persuade ourselves, others, and God (we think) that we are worthy of His love.

The truth is this:

“God’s love isn’t based on me.  It’s simply placed on me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

And this…  Authentic love that comes from a place of being filled by Him will always flow out.  It’s like a stream.  There’s a continual reservoir of being filled and pouring out but never running dry because the source of the water is from deeper and higher up.  By pouring from a place of abundance, there’s not a need to be concerned with running dry.

The place of abundance — the abundant life — is God Himself!!!

Living loved isn’t deciding to be loved…  it’s settling in my soul, “I was created by God because He loved me.”  — Lysa TerKeurst in Uninvited

You don’t have to win God’s love.  It was poured out on a cross for you.  It ran down in rivers of blood from a crown of thorns and spikes driven into His hands and feet.  It gushed out from His side, where a spear was thrust to determine His death was real.  It revealed itself in a myriad of colors, shapes, sounds, and fragrances at Creation.  It reveals itself in an eternity that is planned just for you to experience the fullness of life, love, joy, and peace like you have never known before.  Even now, it shows itself in the daily grind where He offers His Presence to be the “Gem” that is found in the midst of the hard and muddy of life.

What Is Our Identity?

Handprint

(FreeImages.com/BSK)

As I was studying I John chapter 2, I was amazed once again by the depth we see in Scripture!  The topic of identity has been greatly on my heart because how we perceive ourselves is how we will live.  This is why it is so important that our thinking is truthful when it comes to how we see ourselves.

As a Christian, I know that my identity is in Jesus Christ!

Who He is is my position and also is what He is revealing, transforming within me (because of Him).

The following verses reveal the nature, the premise, the foundation, and the purpose of our identity:

1 John 2:10-15

10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Their Spiritual State

12 I write to you, little children,
    Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
13 I write to you, fathers,
    Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    Because you have overcome the wicked one.
I write to you, little children,
    Because you have known the Father.
14 I have written to you, fathers,
    Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.
I have written to you, young men,
    Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,
    And you have overcome the wicked one

1. First, we need to know that we are forgiven.

The forgiveness Jesus offered to us at the cross frees us from Satan’s and sin’s dominion.  Sin and Satan no longer have authority over us because Jesus defeated them at the cross.  This means, Satan has no authority to condemn or accuse us.  We do not need to listen to his lies/false accusations.

2. Second, we have “known the Father” is emphasized several times.

The point being made is that we need to know our Heavenly Father.  Children will often talk, walk, eat, and have similar personalities and even posture to that of their parents.  The same is true with us.  We need to know our Heavenly Father so we pick up on the “family resemblance” and know what it means to be a “Christian.”

Who we are is completely tied in with who He is.  We need to know our Heavenly Father so we can understand better who we are.

3.  Third, we need to understand that we can overcome the evil one.

“God’s truth had a place in their hearts.  And that truth made them victorious in the spiritual battles they faced.” (from Community Bible Study on Christian Living)  God’s truth illuminates the “darkness” and strengthens our faith, keeping us rooted and grounded.  We can overcome by understanding the authority we have in the name of Jesus and in the promises of God’s Word.

4.  Fourth, the Word of God needs to abide in us.

The Word of God will give us insight into our Heavenly Father, into our inheritance, into our standing as His Beloved children, into His promises towards us, and into right thinking in order to have our thoughts transformed by the light of His Word.

5. Fifth, we need to understand the new natures we have been given as His children.

In First John 2, the young men are told that they are strong.  This reminds me of when God called Gideon out and called him a mighty man of valor when Gideon was actually living in cowardly fear.  Once God called Gideon into his new calling and into his new identity, Gideon actually began to live out the truth of what God was actively creating within Gideon.  The same is true with us.  God calls us “children of light” and calls us His beloved.  He says we are overcomers.  It is our inheritance and our new natures to overcome, to live victoriously, to understand we are forgiven, and to understand that Satan and sin no longer have the right to have authority over our lives.

What does this new nature look like?

The distinctive characteristic of God’s true children is the love that they manifest and live out towards one another. 

To walk in light/truth means that we are walking in love.  The truth/light can only be correctly discerned through the eyes of love.  Authentic truth/light is never separate from love.

We receive abundant love from Him that we in turn pour out on others.

The Lid Is Coming Off The Box

Pink boxes 2

(FreeImages.com/NathalieDulex)

It was two years ago this April that the Lord did some major healing in my life.  I had a broken image of my identity and calling, and God restored that.  I remember when He showed me a picture of this beautifully-wrapped, pink gift.  He spoke to my heart and told me that He had a calling upon my husband’s and my life that was more beautiful than I had ever imagined!  I remember the tears and the healing those words brought to me.

The calling wasn’t because my husband and I are so wonderful or qualified in ourselves.  Rather, He qualifies the called. 

This year, I am seeing the lid coming off the gift of His calling upon our lives.  I am a bit nervous but also excited!  Humbled by the privilege of serving with Him! Humbled with the honor of bringing others to Him and sharing Him so that the “captives might be set free!”

Jesus has a calling upon each of our lives — a purpose that far exceeds our wildest dreams!

The calling is wrapped up in Himself — in His image.  Our destiny, worth, and image is tied within the gift of Jesus Himself!

Recently, my husband and I were having a conversation, and the Lord revealed with burning clarity the truth of why we need to know that our worth, identity, and purpose is in Jesus.

If we are looking for worth and identity in ministries, in missions, in a church, in relationships, in appearance, in education, in vocation, etc…, we will encounter a lot of rejection that we will take on as our own.  We will struggle with a lot of pride, comparisons, envy, judgment, hurt, and insecurity.

On the other hand, if we understand that our identity is in Jesus, we will be completely secure, fulfilled, and “whole.”  Why?  Because we will know this…

Jesus is our identity! 

Because Jesus is eternal, perfect, and unconditional, we can rest secure in Him — never feeling that our reflection is marred or rejected because of the opinion of someone else!

Let me restate that:

We can rest secure in Him — our true identity — because He is eternal, flawless, and secure, full of unconditional love!

Our identity is in Jesus!

Who He is is who we are in Him!

Walk In Your Own Skin

door

(FreeImages.com/Griszka Niewiadomski)

I recently read a blog post where the author was attacking men who hold doors open for women.  She was stating that such actions devalue women and is too reminiscent of the misogynist, patriarchal culture.  The blog post talked a lot more about other things as well, but I wrote this in response to the part about holding open doors and being a gentleman:

What is so atrocious about teaching men to be respectful and gentlemanly?

What is also so wrong with allowing men to treat us with the value we are and deserve?

I am not a man, AND I am glad I am not.

Guys can’t do the things I can do, and I can’t do everything they can do. You know what?  That’s okay! 

If we are all the same, what fun is there?

Part of the coolness of us is our uniqueness.

Why do we keep trying to force women to be like men and men to be like women?

Trying to treat us the same or judge us based on our “sameness” is actually contrary to valuing a woman. It devalues a woman by trying to say she is only valuable if she is like a man.

I don’t have to be like someone else or like another gender to have value.

I am valuable because I am me — uniquely me!  No one else on this entire planet is just like me.

I do myself a disservice when I try to be someone else. I am, in essence, saying that I am only valuable if I am like that other person, other gender, or other thing.

It’s time we start accepting our own skin and being comfortable in it — regardless of who agrees or disagrees with us.

I want to repeat that one line:

“It’s time we start accepting our own skin and being comfortable in it.”

The issue isn’t what other people have tried to say we are or aren’t, who have tried to dominate us, constrain us, rename us.  The issue is when we allow those opinions to define us.

I am not weak or inferior because I am a woman, nor do I need to prove that I am more valuable by trying to conform myself to someone else’ preferences or likeness. 

I understand the frustration and abuse that women have experienced throughout the years because of oppressive societies and harmful philosophies concerning women, but when I react to them by trying to prove that I am the same as men, am I not actually giving more credence to the very dogma I am trying to stand against? 

Am I not saying that my value cannot stand in its own merits; therefore, I have to conform to the merits of the opposite gender?

The truth is I am me —  not anyone else.

To try to change the essence of who I am (who I was created to be) is the biggest rejection of my own value and purpose and image.

Note: I am not saying that we don’t stand up for justice and freedom from oppression.  I am addressing that we have gone too far the other way — that we have lost the appreciation for our own uniqueness.  We have rejected our very created beings and have become in many ways another form of the very thing that we have hated: selfishness, anger, bitterness…

When I believe the lie or react to the lie by believing a different lie, I merely find myself trading one kind of poisonous leaf for a different kind.  They look different, but the end result is it chokes out the very core of my created being and worth. I think I am walking in freedom, but I have merely exchanged one type of poison for another kind.

Have You Confused Your Struggle With Your Identity?

freedom

(FreeImages.com/TahaSafari)

 I might as well not even bother to explain why I haven’t blogged for awhile.  I think you understand because you are probably here just like me, trying to keep up with the whirlwind of life — the basics.   As much as I love blogging, it’s not essential to life so it gets buried beneath an avalanche of other thoughts and priorities and necessities.

Here I am today with this treasure: a pocket of time that I am going to fill with one of my best Christmas gifts to myself: the opportunity to blog.

I know it may sound selfish, but for me, blogging is more than just doing something I enjoy.  I blog because by writing down those “God” moments of my day, it helps me to really soak it in, reflect, and “own” what truths I am to apply.

I have been participating in a Community Bible Study group, which I love, but because of the Christmas holiday, we are having a break from CBS.  I decided to crack open a new study book that I had bought last year.  Just looking at the title, I knew there were truths that I would be taking home.

The thoughts/truths that this book stirred up in my heart were things I have been pondering all along…  Truths that I wish I could just help every single person to soak in, including myself.

It has to do with our identity — who we are.  I have written about this subject on past occasions so why do I continue to mention it?

I believe the importance of identity keeps coming back for these reasons:

If we knew who we were — really knew — we would be unbeatable and would consistently live the victorious life.

This brings us to the second truth:

The battlefield of the mind and in our spiritual journeys will always be based upon one or both of the following lies: a lie about myself and/or a lie about God.

When we read Genesis 1, we learn some important truths:

God’s Words create reality and have the power to bring things into being.

In other words, Being comes from God.  We become the reality of God’s truth as we receive and hear it.  If we tune it out, we miss out on this opportunity.  It also means that what He declares we are in Christ is what we actually are: He created it into Being.

On the other hand, our words don’t create or destroy, but they do promote life as they build up or death as they tear down our emotions and disturb our spiritual growth.  This is also true towards how we use our words in interaction with others.

Proverbs 18:21

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

Matthew 12:34

34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

What’s in our hearts is revealed by the words that we speak.

Matthew 12:35

35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

It is interesting that the word here for treasure means a storeroom and actually is the Greek word thesauros.  It means a storeroom of words in our hearts.  Our hearts and minds are containers for words — either truth or lies and/or a combination.  What we allow into our “containers” will influence us.

In one of the assignments in the book, I was to write out a list of “who I am.”  The significance to the assignment was to reveal this:

We often use what we do to describe who we are and think that is the summary of who we are.

What this means is the following powerful statement:

We often choose our I am based on what we do and our struggles — rather than the reality of who we actually are.

Repeat that again because it is so powerful!

We often choose our I am based on what we do and our struggles…

rather than the reality of who we actually are.

Read an example of this in the Bible:

Exodus 4:10

10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Moses judged his capabilities by his physical abilities or lack thereof.  He judged his potential by his limitations or challenges.  He judged his purpose and calling by his “giftings” or apparent limits.  He forgot that God can take a rod and make it a serpent.  He can take a virgin and cause her to bare the Son of God.  He can take tablets of stone and form His commands upon them.  He can take a shepherd boy and cause him to destroy one of the biggest enemies to Israel.  He can take the Red Sea and part its waters. He can take doubting disciples and transform them into bold testaments to His power.  He can take a citadel of military prowess and cause its walls to tumble.  He can take an orphan and make her a queen.  He can take an old, barren womb and cause it to bring forth life.  He can take a body, deteriorating in the grave for four days and resurrect it to life again.  The point is, He can!

The point is He can.

A few months ago, I was sitting in a church service, and God clearly spoke to my heart these words, “I am not looking for ability.  I am looking for availability.”  He was telling me, I can use you if you are willing to surrender to me, even your fears and limitations.

He often chooses the most unlikely candidates to perform His work because as a result His glory is revealed.

The problem is this:

We often have very little practical awareness of the reality of who we are in Christ and of Who He is in us.

Instead, we judge our usefulness and our identity by our failings, and then instead of overcoming them in the victory we have in Christ, we give in to the lie and live the lie.

1 Corinthians 15:10

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

This is the truth I want to share with you today:

You are not your struggle.

You are not your past.

You are not even the failings of your present.

God’s desire to use you was never based upon your abilities or performance.  God’s love for you was never based upon how many times you obeyed Him.  He loved you in spite of yourself, and He still does!

Our biggest challenge is for us to get out of the way!

A couple of Sundays ago, I was feeling guilty because I hadn’t spent as much time in the Word that week and was feeling the affects.  (Note: I am not downplaying the importance of doing this, but keep reading…)  As a result, I was struggling in my worship.  The Lord then spoke to my heart clearly, and it was this: “Your worship is not based upon you.  It’s based upon Me, and I never change.  You need to get out of the way and stop looking at your unworthiness, but instead focus on My worthiness.”

The amazing truth is this:

I am worthy because He made me worthy!  Jesus gave me His worthiness.  My claim is based upon Him, and my claim is backed by an Almighty God.  The spiritual world recognizes my claim in His name!

As I close this blog post, I want to encourage you with this:

“Who you are and what your struggle with is not the same thing.” (slightly paraphrased from Me, Myself, and Lies by Jennifer Rothschild)

A Letter To My Leaders

Bird In Flight

(FreeImages.com/MatthewMaaskant)

Today, I posted the following to my team of leaders:  (I wanted to share it since I think that more than just my team can benefit from this.)

Girls,

This is on my heart to say:

I want to encourage each of you to do your very best and stretch your wings, to awaken to your own gifts, but I don’t want you to ever feel that your worth is based upon your performance.

With all of this encouragement and coaching to grow and do better, it’s easy to start losing sight of the fact that we are all unique individuals on our own journeys.

I want you to understand that my biggest goal is for you to walk into the full “giftings” God has given to you, to not hide from them, to not feel unworthy of them, but to embrace them.

Let me tell you, I am learning this — learning to walk in who I am, regardless of who appreciates it, understands my unique gifts, or even believes in me.

I used to always base my worth on what others thought of me…

God is calling me to walk out my freedom now. It’s not always easy!!! There are days I walk in my victory in spite of the way I feel and in spite of the feedback I am getting.

God was showing me recently that each testing is an opportunity to have that pivotal moment in life when we make the defining decision to choose differently — to choose victory and freedom over fear, shame, and rejection

Random Notes But A Powerful Message!

The home of the the power for the sky

(FreeImages.com/AndreiGhergar)

 Yesterday, the Lord encouraged me with many wonderful truths through His Word, devotionals, a message, and thoughts during a prayer meeting.  I wanted to share them with you.  Enjoy the following:

5/4/16 AM: Believe the Lord was speaking to my heart this morning.  He reminded me of the verse I was given for this year:

2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Read in my devotional how we often want to go back — back to happier times.  God though always leads us forward.  I need to let go of the “if-onlys” and remember, “Today is fresh with no mistakes” (quote from Anne Shirley in Anne Of Green Gables), no misgivings, and no if-only.

5/4/16 early afternoon message:  “We often try to head towards freedom when God wants us to live from freedom.”  He is freedom!

It’s been said, “Freedom is experiencing the Presence of God.”  Amen!

“Grace empowers us to walk out the truth.”

Jesus asked the question, “Who do you say that I am?”  Pivotal question!  This will determine your entire belief system and how you live your life.  Who is Jesus to you?  It’s not what other people say; it’s not what the books say.  What do you believe about Jesus?  Who is He really to you?

Your ministry doesn’t validate who you are in Him.  Get ahold of who you are to Him and in Him.  Your “ministry” is not to find something to prove yourself.  It’s finding Jesus — having such a powerful/intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that it impacts everyone you meet.

We spend so much of our time waking up sin-conscience when we should be awaking Son-conscience.

“People aren’t your problem; you are.”

“You can be wrong about being right.”

“Instead of trying to sell people my fruit, why I don’t let them pick it?”  (sharing our faith)

“Let your roots go into the love of God.”

“Your family isn’t your problem; you are!”  (How many times do we blame others for our own lack of happiness and peace?  Our lack of peace and joy can only be blamed upon ourselves.  No one can take away your peace and joy, unless you allow it.)

Wherever you are shouldn’t be dark because you are there.   (Jesus in you!)

“Having a form of godliness is knowing a lot of God’s Word without the power of the Holy Spirit to apply it.”

“You can’t walk the Beattitudes out in the flesh.”  (Why so many don’t like them.)

False grace slips when there’s no relationship with Jesus — not the intimate knowing and being known.

“A lack of the body of Christ is in praying — not preaching.”

“Don’t bypass God to get a father figure.”

Co-labor with fellow Christians — don’t be co-dependent.

Heaven paid an infinite cost.  Why?  Because He values you!  The one who values the object is willing to pay the high price.  This is what gives the object worth.  Anything can be valuable or valueless.  It’s the buyer who determines the worth of the object.  Jesus determined our worth by paying the infinite price to redeem us!

1 John 1:7

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

“If you envy someone else, it means you don’t know who you are.” (Whose and therefore who you are…)

“Intimacy is that you know that you’re known.”  (truly known — all of you and yet accepted and loved)

“Live a life that is pleasing to the Lord — not because you have to but because you want to.”

“Pursue God at the cost of everything; God is worth it all!”

“If you’re on fire and you get put into the fire, you’ll be alright.  The fire is not the issue.  Trials aren’t the issue.”

“Heaven paid the highest price to revalue you.”

Wherever you go, there should be revival.

“Everyone is a target for the love of God, but not everyone wants to be.  You have to know who you are.”

“You’ll never love your neighbor unless you know who you are.”

5/5/16 AM devotional:

Read this this morning: “I will fight for you; you need only to be still. I know how weary you are, my child. You have been struggling just to keep your head above water, and your strength is running low. Now is the time to stop striving and let Me fight for you. I know this is not easy for you to do. You feel as if you must keep struggling in order to survive, but I am calling you to rest in Me. I am working on your behalf; so be still, and know that I am God. Quieting your body is somewhat challenging for you, but stilling your mind may often seem downright impossible. In your striving to feel secure, you have relied too heavily on your own thinking. This struggle to be in control has elevated your mind to a position of autonomy. So you need the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to control your mind more and more — soothing you from the inside out. Take time to rest in the shadow of the Almighty while I fight for you.” (by S. Young)
5/5/16 another devotional:
Reading about Gideon…  He was a man blinded by his perceived limitations.  He relied on the physical rather than the spiritual.  He based his security on what was tangible.  He forgot or ignored the God-equation.  Following quote from Men & Women Of The Bible:
God’s grace and provision are more than enough [to compensate] for what we may lack.
This is true because God is El Shaddai — the all-sufficient God!  He is more than enough!
Gideon’s perspective revealed that he didn’t know his God.  He didn’t know his true self (what God created and died for us to be).
We are sometimes our own worst critic.
from Men & Women Of The Bible:
We are our own worst critic because we don’t know ourselves as God knows us and sees us!
What are we to God:
I am His inheritance!  Jesus brought me to the “throne room of His grace,” redeemed me, forgave me, and clothed me in His righteousness.
5/5/16 AM Bible study with my son:
 God looks at you in the light of His Word — not yours!
from “Men & Women Of The Bible”
So many amazing truths as seen in Ephesians 1:

Ephesians 1

Greeting

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Redemption in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who[b] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom

15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding[c] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

How secure is our salvation and position in Christ?  As secure and reliable as Christ and the Holy Spirit!  He sealed us by the Holy Spirit.  He brought our salvation about in Christ.  This is our security!

You accept this gift of salvation, and it is yours.

What is the price of one soul — your soul?!!!

Jesus said, “You are of infinite worth because He paid the ultimate, eternal, and infinite cost for you!”

What Is Your Identity?

crocuses

What is identity, and why is it so important?

Your identity is what defines you.

Our identity does not just represent us, but it is the “substance” of who we are.

We will live out who we believe we are.

If you want to know where you find your identity, look no further than the things that give you purpose and where you find “fulfillment.”  That’s what you believe is your identity.  Note: this can be a false identity, but this is the identity you have taken as your own and are living as.

When asked about yourself, what is your regular explanation?  How do you introduce yourself?  What is the summary of your life?  How do you spend your time — the majority of it?  The answers to each of these questions will tell you a lot about the identity you are living as.

Examine that identity next to the identity that God gives to you.  Is your identity truthful?

 

Who You Are…

Swallowtail Butterfly

(FreeImages.com/Daniel Eurenius)

On numerous occasions, I find myself either reminding another sweet “sister” or “brother” in Christ or myself the truth of who we are.  Why do we need to be so constantly reminded of this?

Most of us can recite to one another the truth of who we are (who we really are), but when it comes to believing it and thus living it, that’s an entirely different story.

Perhaps to understand why this is such a constant battle — knowing who we truly are — we need to understand why this is so important.

It’s simply this: what you believe about yourself will ultimately influence the person you will live out or be.  Let me say that again:

What you believe about yourself will ultimately determine the person you are living as and the person you will become.

If you are constantly feeding your mind with the lies — that you are worthless, ugly, stupid, fearful, rejected, unloved, unwanted, inferior, etc…, you will self-fulfill those very lies.  You will unknowingly self-initiate the very things you believe about yourself.

You may have experienced rejection in the past, but instead of healing and knowing that what you experienced is not the truth of who you are, you will continue to live rejection.  Instead of not allowing the opinions and lies of others to “roll off” you, you will “take them in.”  As a dear friend said, “You’ll make a pet of them.”

Perhaps, this is one of the biggest reasons why there is a constant attack on our “identity” — who we are.  It’s because we can waste a lot of our life living from the wrong identity instead of living in the freedom of who we were created to be.

Some of us live from a more subtle identity of lies.  We are living from the “good” identities.  We think our worth is based on how “godly,” spiritual, and kind we are.  We think our worth is performance-based.  We try to impress everyone around us with how wise, faith-filled, serving we are.  We can so easily fool ourselves into thinking the motives are all good because we are doing good things — Bible-approved things.  Plus, we receive affirmation and praise from others.  Oh how subtle the deception can be!

Godliness though is not something we do for God.  It’s something we do from God.  Godliness is us submitting ourselves to the sovereignty of God’s grace and power at work in our lives.  It is His initiation and our surrendered response.

Galatians 5:4

You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Some of us are deriving our sense of worth from our beauty, our independence, our accomplishments, our intelligence, our possessions, and our education.

The truth is: your worth has never been about what you do — how “profitable” you are to the world or even more to God. 

Your worth is about Whose you are!

It’s not about your earthly parents — what they are or aren’t.  It’s not about how horrible or not so horrible they were.

Some of you are hurting right now because of the painful things people — even people you respect or love — have said about you or to you.  Perhaps, they were speaking from their own fears, their own experiences, and their own deception.  Whatever the case, these wounds are real.  (In my next blog post, “Offenses,” I plan to write more about what to do with those wounds.)

The first thing you need to understand is that God alone creates reality.  He is truth.  The opinions of others don’t create reality.  There may be truth they have gained from God’s world, laws, and Word, but this doesn’t mean everything they say or think is truth.

So often we base our own sense of worth and identity upon the opinions of others.  The truth is they have no power over you — unless you give it to them by believing what they say or think about you.

Remember who you are!

Jeremiah 31:3

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you.

You were created for a purpose by a loving and good God.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Perhaps, you have never accepted God’s gift of salvation for you.  Here is a fairly familiar verse:

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

He loved you that much!  He desires your presence, your fellowship, and a relationship with you because He loves YOU!

Remember…

You were created for a purpose with inherent worth because you are infinitely loved by an all-loving, all-powerful, and all-wise God!