Too Much Focus On Identity?

shame

(FreeImages.com/JV)

There are some amazing books that have been recently published on identity, and this seems to be a common thought in women’s ministries today.

But, is there too much of a focus on identity?

Has it become more self-focused rather than God-focused?

I recently read this article: http://faithit.com/dear-womens-ministry-stop-calling-me-beautiful-phylicia-delta/.

I liked this one line, in particular, that she said:

“They leave our churches knowing all about themselves, and knowing little about Christ.”

I commented the following in regards to her statement:

I liked this line in the article: “They leave our churches knowing all about themselves, and knowing little about Christ.” That is the key!!! There is a huge focus on identity because it absolutely makes a huge difference in our lives, BUT we can’t know who we are until we know Whose we are and that means knowing Who He is. That’s the issue.  So many Christians know a lot about God and still remain insecure. I believe the issue is because they haven’t gotten past just knowing about God to understanding how those pivotal truths relate to them in their every day moment by moment living. It’s knowing that in this very moment, God isn’t just merciful, but He is my mercy today. Identity is at a crisis today because as a whole, the world and even the church hardly knows God on a personal, intimate level (reality), and therefore, we behave as orphans, searching for belonging. I agree that so often our focus becomes then centered on just a more spiritualized version of New Age thinking: self-enlightenment and self-glorification rather than on understanding the greatness of God and the greatness of His love and grace for us!!! When you truly understand this, it doesn’t make you proud; it makes you humble. The more I realize the greatness of His love and grace towards me, the more secure I am and the more humble I am!!!

I personally believe that you will never walk fully as a daughter of God until you understand that you are a daughter of God and what that means, which is why knowing our true identities is crucial.

I also though strongly believe that, as the article I quoted from is pointing out, we cannot understand who we are without understanding Who He is.

I want to clarify too that we do need to understand our roots: we are sinners completely in need of a Savior, but if all we do is stay there, we actually have “forfeited” the purpose of the cross in our lives. 

Jesus came to save lost sons/sinners and to restore them as sons and heirs with Him! 

The purpose of the cross wasn’t to emphasize our pasts, our sinfulness, what was lost to us in the Garden of Eden, and what Satan on a daily basis tries to constantly rub in our faces.

The purpose of the cross is what was accomplished at the cross — which is our salvation, our eternity, our redemption, our forgiveness, and the fact that we are no longer sinners separated from God, but we are sons and daughters and priests and priestesses of the most High God!

Let me repeat that statement:

The purpose of the cross is what was accomplished by Jesus at the cross.

I want to end this by restating the last line from my comment because I believe this is the focus with which I want to end:

The more I realize the greatness of His love and grace towards me, the more secure I am and the more humble I am!!!

and…

“…we can’t know who we are until we know Whose we are and that means knowing Who He is.”

1 John 4:19

19 We love him, because he first loved us.

 

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.

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.

This Is My Worth!

shadow

(FreeImages.com/HansWidmer)

The book lay open in my hands.  I had been given the privilege of reading for a few uninterrupted minutes, and the book I chose to read told the story of Jesus’ life, ministry on earth, and His death.  It was a story that I had read many times.  Yet, reading it again was like hearing it for the first time.  I read again about someone who lived so purely, so sacrificially, and so lovingly.  His humility was such a stark contrast to the showiness of the religious leaders and to those who sought Him for His works but not for Himself.  Yet, He gave and healed so freely, and what was given and done for Him?  A few rugged and uneducated men followed him, often bickering and then finally abandoning Him when it became dangerous and unpopular to follow Him.

Then, my mind’s eye could picture Him in all the gore of His beatings, the pain of the betrayals, but even more the weight of all the shame He bore.  Do you know how horrible it is when we needlessly carry the shame of our mistakes?  Yet, Jesus carried all of those horrendous sins — from Adolf Hitler to ISIS to the Ted Bundy’s of this world.  He carried every abuse, every lie, every lust, and there was no one to shoulder the burden for Him.  We don’t have to carry the weight of our sins, but He did.  He carried the crushing weight of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THOSE. SINS.  Yes, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE!

And God, His perfect and incredibly loving Abba Father had to turn His back on His Son.  Jesus had never experienced that — ever.  We don’t understand that because God pursues each of us and loves us.  Yet, Jesus didHe experienced what it felt like to have to carry every last sin and carry it all upon Himself.  He carried all of that for me.  …for you.

Then, it struck me.  It struck me how incredibly I am loved!  Such a price was paid for me… for you!  It was a price of infinite worth!  The price paid was God Himself.  He gave His all.  He gave Himself.

Then, I realized this:

We don’t understand our worth because we don’t understand the depth and magnitude of the sacrifice He made for us.

I don’t deserve it.  I am absolutely humbled and incredibly grateful that God Himself gave His all to redeem me and to give me an inheritance with Him!

To be honest, I can’t wrap my mind completely around that thought.  It’s overwhelming!

As the truth of this sinks in, I raise my face, slick with tears, to look up, knowing He sees and hears me.  Into the holiness of the realization of Who He is, I whisper these simple words, “Thank you, Jesus!  Thank you!”

This is what it means to be His daughters and sons: it means to have infinite worth because an Infinite God loved me that much!

He gave His everything for me… for you!

Thank you, Jesus.

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!”

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!

Belonging & Being

Rose

(FreeImages.com/MARIE JEANNE Iliescu)

It had happened once again…  I had allowed the temporal to distract me from my eternal purpose.  I had looked to things, to relationships, and to accomplishments for a sense of satisfaction and worth.  The thing is they hadn’t.  I only felt more distracted, rushed, stressed, and pressured.

My time with the Lord was lacking because I was not making it a priority.

Other important relationships were also seeing some neglect as I wasn’t giving them the time, energy, and focus they deserved.

Yes, I confess all of this.  This was me before this past Monday…

I had allowed myself to become distracted by “good things,” but those “good things” weren’t my ultimate calling, worth, or source of life.

Then into the “void” that comes from not “being” centered, God’s loving voice began to convict me.

I love the fact that God loves me too much to keep me in an unhealthy state!  When I am “off,” He will speak conviction in order to bring me back into “alignment” with Him.  His conviction is often so gentle and kind and yet truthful.

God began to convict me that I when I began to be distracted by those other things, I had subtlely begun to look to those things to fulfill me, to bring me happiness, and to give me a sense of worth.  Without fully recognizing what was happening, I had “transplanted” my sense of “being”/belonging to those things.

That’s why Scripture says,

Matthew 6:21

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

God began to ask me to yield those things to Him.  I know better, but my will didn’t want to easily submit this to God.  I am honest with God.  (You can’t be anything else with Him.)  My response was, “God, I know I need to yield this to you, but I am really having a hard time giving this up, giving over control of it to you.”  I guess I was afraid that if I gave it up to Him, I would be “missing out” or would lose something important.

The truth is I had already lost the most important thing: my intimate fellowship with God.  Instead of my thoughts being continually centered and satisfied in Him, I was constantly worrying, striving, and obsessing over some other things.

The interesting thing is the things we think will fulfill us don’t.  We can see this by the way we are never satisfied.  We achieve a new goal or accomplishment, and we want more.  We acquire a new possession, and we want more.   It’s never enough.

The one thing I have found always, always, always satisfies is God Himself.  I have never found anything to satisfy or complete me like He does.  When I am “centered” in Him, I am complete, at rest (soul rest), and utterly content.  It’s an amazing and beautiful experience that you can only understand if you too have found God as your Source of Life!

As I close this post, may I encourage you to “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

There is nothing more beautiful, fulfilling, or that gives  a greater sense of worth, being, and belonging then being “centered” in Him!

It is the eternal that gives the temporal its purpose.

Sometimes The Best Way To Welcome Someone Is To Be “Unprepared”

Carved-stone welcome "mat" at the Auburn Sounder station. Note that they face the boarders, not the deboarders.

(http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=2456222&searchId=fc0d07ca355de4e790053ed7db407892&npos=18)

I am a mom of five children.  It goes without being said that life is busy.

Busyness necessitates picking priorities.  I am learning that people are more important than keeping a pristine house. 

I still function better in a clean house, but I am learning that my worth isn’t found in the state of my house.

I am also learning that my worth isn’t found in the performance of my kids so that means inviting people into my life and allowing them to observe the imperfect but beautifully authentic reality of life. 

It means allowing people to see the way we interact and that we have struggles just like everyone else.  That we are imperfect people raising imperfect little people.

I am also learning that my worth isn’t based on my appearance My worth doesn’t need validation from others.  My worth has already been determined.

So this morning I knew I had company coming.   That meant it was time to clean a house that had been missing my attention due to a busy week of running, homeschooling, and caring for six other people.

My poor bathrooms!  Oh, they were in desperate need of a face-lift so I scurried around making them fit for human use.

By the time I had straightened a little, cleaned dishes, fed everyone, changed a dirty diaper, cleaned bathrooms, swept floors and stairs, I knew I was running out of time to get myself presentable.  I still hadn’t showered, dressed, or even brushed my hair.

I know it was the Lord in His grace, but the thought came to my mind, “Your company may show up any minute and maybe you are supposed to greet her this way to encourage her that your life isn’t perfect.  Don’t be stressed; just offer the gift of authenticity.”

Sure enough, the door-bell rang immediately after that thought.

I can say that without God’s gentle “coaching” I would have been stressed, embarrassed, and ashamed that I was so unprepared for company.

Yet, God in His loving way was encouraging me that sometimes what our friends and loved ones need isn’t false perfection, but what they need is our willingness to offer ourselves, to be authentic, to be vulnerable.

This dear friend so graciously entered my home and never once made me feel awkward or embarrassed over my disheveled appearance.  As we talked, laughed, and watched our active little ones, it didn’t matter that one of us hadn’t showered, dressed, or brushed her hair.

What mattered was that we were two mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends sharing a part of our lives together.

How refreshing it is to know that worth, friendship, and love is never about perfection, performance, or appearance.  It’s about authentic lavish love — love that God Himself has so richly poured upon us.

Because of that love, we are given many opportunities to share the gift of ourselves and the gift of the moment with others.