Category Archives: My Depravity

His Image, My Image

“Who am I?” has become the question that shapes our world. Most people are on a search to discover their own unique identity, and this is especially true of adolescents. Young people are apt to try lots of things to discover their passions, giftings, preferences and values.

When it comes to the issue of identity, I believe there are four different kind of people from a Biblical perspective.
• Those who don’t ever really think much about their identity.
• Those who are defined by everybody else around them.
• Those who look only within and still find something missing.
• Those who have a healthy self image founded in Christ that reflects their own unique callings and giftings.

Many smart people say that the key to this process of finding your identity is to look deep within to find the true you. And while this advice sounds good, it is missing something very important if God exists and He created each one of us. We are asking the wrong question. Looking deep within is just as wrong as looking around to everybody else to discover the real me. The best question to ask is, “What does God say about me?”

Since God is our Creator, only He can give an accurate estimation of our worth and value. Only He can ultimately answer our longings for acceptance and love. We are made in the image of God, which means getting to know God will help us discover ourselves. If you are a Christian, think of this another way… Jesus Is My Self Image!

Noted theologian and author, C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.” While there is nothing wrong with seeking the opinions of others or looking within to explore issues of our life, these are limited in their effectiveness to answer our deepest questions on our journey for self discovery.

“Having a healthy self image is not the ultimate goal. Knowing Jesus in all His fullness is,” wrote Josh McDowell, Christian apologetics expert and author in His Image, My Image. Developing a healthy self image is the byproduct of chasing after Jesus and discovering just how wonderful He is.

I love what Corey Russel, author and iHOP-KC leader, said, “There is a whole generation running around asking, ‘What is my identity? What is my calling? Who am I?’ God says if we would just seek to know Him we would discover who we are…You want to know who you are – Go after Jesus. You will run right into yourself.”

Unfortunately, too many people are defined by lies that they have believed. These may be statements made by others or our own assessment of our failings and “negative” traits. These thoughts may be inspired by demons to rob us of the true identity we have when we see ourselves as God sees us. If we are defined by a lie, we will never know the real us!

Your identity development does more than just affect your self esteem. Our sense of identity is a lens that impacts how we look at the world and ourselves. If you have a healthy self image, you will be able to look at both the good and the bad in your design. But too many people can only see the negative or the ways that they don’t measure up to others. Developing a healthy self image happens as we explore the depths of Jesus Christ and realize that He is the key to our quest for discovery. And this process happens best in community because we are called to be part of a living body of believers.

Along this process of self discovery, I found out that rejecting who God designed me to be is a sin. It is actually rebellion against God. It is in essence saying to the Creator, “I know better than you how I should have been made.” While we may all have something we would like to change about ourselves, we should not strongly dislike who we are. This includes our physical design as well as talents, abilities, personality and our life situation. We were born where we were for a reason. We were placed in our families for a reason. We look a certain way for reason. We have to embrace God’s design or we can become miserable in the pursuit of becoming someone else. While there is nothing wrong with changing some things that we don’t like or are not good, there are some things we just need to accept and embrace because we can’t change it.

Having a Jesus-inspired self identity starts with searching the Scriptures to see what God says about His love and purposes for humanity. What does the Bible say about our self image and value?

God loves you more than the best parent does a treasured child.

1 John 3:1 (NIV)
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
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You were created in God’s image and bear the mark of a grand design.

Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

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God has crowned man with honor and glory. Thus, you have value and worth because God says so. He sacrificed His Son to save you.

Psalm 8:4-5 (NIV)
What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

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Key Questions to Consider

• What is the basis of your identity?
• Is there somebody you would rather be than you?
• How do you think God sees you?

Tool Kit

God does not leave us empty handed to fight battles against sin, evil spirits and darkness.

No, God gives us tools.

But if you don’t us those tools, you will lose battles that really should be won. In reality, the hard work has been done. After all, Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!” And Jesus meant what He said.

So if you have just experienced a breakthrough or victory in your life, don’t be surprised if sin, temptation, lies and demonic influences come back. But if you use the tools in your tool kit, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. The Bible says, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

So, what you waiting for? Open up that tool kit and get busy…

Here are the tools that Jesus has given His Church …

1.)    Listening prayer – By quieting the noise around us and taking authority over the influences in our lives, we can position ourselves to hear from God. Too often our prayers focus on talking and don’t involve enough listening. If you listen for the “voice” of God, He will reveal His will as well as His love and affirmation. The Holy Spirit will identify areas you need to surrender, things you need to repent of and actions steps you should take in faith.

2.)    Confession and repentance – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. The Lord also helps us repent by His power. Repentance is sweet although too many people think of it as something to be avoided or feared. Repentance frees us from the power of sin and gives us hope to be different.

3.)    Surrender – By letting go of the things that hold us back, we can be free to become who God always intended us to be. Surrender helps us come to the point where we rely on the power of Jesus to change our heart. It is the launch pad where we ask for the Holy Spirit to empower us to develop godly character and values. Surrender is the path to success in the kingdom of God because it recognizes our weakness and taps into God’s strength.

4.)    Break Agreement with Foundational Lies – You are not your sin. You are not the sum of your thoughts. Actually, many of the thoughts that pop into your head don’t reveal your real mind about a situation or person. This thought doesn’t become yours until you accept it as truth and make it part of your worldview. If you make agreement with a
lie, you look at yourself, God and the world in a skewed way
. Many times we make agreements with lies about our identity, which robs us of the dignity that God has given us. We are beautiful and beloved in God’s sight. What lie have you believed about yourself? Break your agreement with that lie, deny it and speak the truth over your life. This is more than just the power of positive thinking. It is the power of having a Christ-like mind.

5.)    Forgive Again – When we forgive others, we set ourselves free and provide the potential for future reconciliation with that person. By holding a grudge, we sit in judgment on the other person. Even if they have wronged us, there is power in forgiving that person in our hearts. That doesn’t mean we trust them or allow somebody to hurt us. But it does cancel the debt and allows us to view the person without having the feeling that we are owed something. Jesus told His followers to make a habit of forgiveness because the measure to which we forgive impacts the freedom of our heart to receive God’s forgiveness.

6.)    Life Together – You are not in this battle alone. God has positioned people around you to help. While we should first rely on God to be our source of strength, there is nothing wrong with calling in some reinforcements. Sometimes we need other peoples to listen to us, give a shoulder to cry on, provide advice, serve a need or pick us up when we are down. You may need to reach out to other believers because your need may not be obvious to others. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Admitting you need help is a sign of strength not weakness.

7.)    Worship – The best kind of worship comes when we are facing a trial or recently experienced a loss. We could give up or curse God. But instead, we worship Him in song or prayer. That is the revelation of a heart that truly values and glorifies God above everything else. Worship causes our hearts to soar and helps build faith. It also positions us to receive from God and stand firm despite opposition. It fills our love tank and honors God. This mindset realizes that we praise God because He is worthy. We shouldn’t praise God just for all the things He had done to bless us. Even if all the blessings from God evaporate, we should still worship God alone. Worship will calibrate your life to focus on God and others.

8.)    Serve – It is hard to be down about your problems when you are helping other people with whatever hardships they face. Instead of looking inward, we can find strength, purpose and stress relief when we reach out to help others in the name of Jesus. May you find somebody who is worse off and bless them. That will keep you busy and help you avoid the trap that can come when boredom leads to sin.

9.)    Develop Spiritual Gifts – Rely on supernatural gifts to help you battle evil spirits and darkness. This requires believers to request gifts from the Holy Spirit and step out in faith to activate them as prompted by God. These gifts are to be grounded in love and should be used to glorify and bless the Church.

10.)                        Practice Generous Assumptions/Speak Words of Life – Your words can land you into trouble or liberate your situation. Speaking kindness to somebody who is angry can soften their wrath. It can position their hearts to forgive and seek reconciliation. Also, if we assume the worse, we tend to get bad outcomes. The reverse happens if we think good thoughts and practice generous assumptions about others. This calls us to look for the good and hope for the best. But thinking the worst drives you to look to be offended and ignores the good things about a person or situation. This attitude blocks hope and sows seeds of further disharmony.

Grieved God’s Heart – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 4

Mark 3:5 (NKJV)
And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

Prayer
Jesus, What grieves Your heart? Is it not those who hide behind religious rules and miss the heart of the matter in the process? Is it blind guides who lead others astray? Is it not the Pharisee who thinks he is righteous before God even though he is just as much a sinner as the next person?

May I stretch out my hand in faith to be healed. May I confront those who seek to wrongly accuse You. Help me to know how to live by Your law and the Spirit. Free me from thinking too highly of myself and questioning You.

Lord, You are the maker of each new day. Teach Your people to honor the Sabbath by doing acts of justice, not turning a blind eye to those in need. Help me to see as You see and respond as You would in love. May I not fear those blind guides who follow dead religion. May I be free to live in step with the Holy Spirit. Amen!

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All.

My tongue tends to get me in trouble a lot. Or maybe it isn’t really the fault of the tongue. I think the real problem goes much deeper than that. Jesus said in Matthew 15:17-19 (NIV), “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

What I say reveals a lot about what is going on in my heart. This is especially true in those moments where I am not “focusing on being good.” We all have moments where we slip up and say something we would rather take back. What comes up in these moments may reveal things in our hearts that we need to allow God to resolve.

My tongue problem is really a heart problem. And the tongue is indeed a powerful part of the body. With the tongue we can curse or bless; we can hurt or heal; and we can encourage reconciliation or cause division. The words we say to others can come back and hurt us. I think of it sort of like bouncing a ball against a wall. All that force and destructive energy has to go somewhere. And it tends to bounce back at some point.

I am starting to realize that much of what I think should never be said. This is hard for someone who is a verbal processor. And while it may seem like common sense, it is hard to accept when you highly value honesty and justice. Keeping your tongue in line, is also hard for someone who is paid to make value judgments in his occupation. As a journalist, I am supposed to interview various people and write what I find. But this is always more than just dictation. You have to make judgments about the reliability of various sources, analyze the importance of the different aspects of a story, and make clarifying statements that some would seem as undue criticism. When it comes to writing opinion pieces, you have to be critical and analytical. That is what you are paid to do. It is hard to turn off this way of looking and speaking about the world when you are not at work.

Scripture offers a pretty harsh critique of the tongue. It calls the tongue a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The tongue is “set on fire by hell.” The tongue cannot be tamed by any man. It can “corrupt the whole person” according to James 3. This famous passage makes you almost want to take a knife to your tongue. But I think even a mute person might tell you this doesn’t really solve much.

Jesus clearly never shied away from making a harsh rebuke when necessary. He scolded His disciples and made all sort of tough rebukes (some might even call slanderous statements) against the political and religious leaders of the day. Jesus said all sort of things that baffled or enraged some who heard His statements. Of course, we are not Jesus. He is His own category. Yet, it doesn’t seem that Jesus forbid His followers from making judgments or giving harsh rebukes. The key comes back to the heart and why we say what we say. Is this rebuke to build up or just merely to cast mud on the reputation of another? Do you have standing so that your words matter to that person? Have you prayed about this first?

These questions all make me want to stop and think before I say anything. Maybe my momma was right. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all (that is unless you know that you have the authority, standing and the responsibility to give a godly rebuke).

Some interesting Scriptures on the tongue and its power.

Psalm 139:4
Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

Proverbs 10:19
Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.

Proverbs 12:18
The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:4
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

Proverbs 16:1
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

Proverbs 21:23
Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

What Do You Want?

A number of times somebody approached Jesus and He instinctively asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is an incredible question because He who asked it could truly answer it. Jesus once declared that all power in heaven and earth was given Him. Better than a genie in a bottle, Jesus could actually answer incredible requests.

Some people asked for miracles or healings. Others wanted to follow Him and see where He lived. Still others asked for position and blessing in God’s kingdom. Have you ever stopped to think what you would say if Jesus turned to you and asked, “What do you want for me to do for you?”

This is a very loaded question. It reveals a lot about what we believe about God. It opens our heart motives and inner longings. It shows what we value and how we are open for God to move in our lives. Even the degree that we take the question seriously, reveals something. Do you think God would ever ask you what you want for Him to do in your life?

As I think through this question, I am disturbed by my potential requests. I could list so many things. But these all seem so petty compared to the response, “I want whatever you want.”

Oh, how I wish this was my request. But so often, I want so much more than just what God wants. Actually, my problem is that I want less than His best. There is no such thing as more than what God wants because my more is actually less.

I am wrestling with this question… What really does God’s best look like for my life?

Beyond Talk, Forget Excuses

Jesus sometimes spoke very strong words to His followers and those who expressed a desire to follow Him. From calling people to be perfect to saying that the crowd should eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus knew how to challenge everyone outside of their comfort zone. He harshly rebuked Simon Peter on a number of occasions. Jesus continually pushed the disciples to new places of faith and self abandonment.

Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow Him, a concept that would have seemed more repulsive during the first century than it does today. When one man asked for time to bury his father, Jesus said that the dead should bury their own dead. Jesus called those who followed Him to put everything else below their devotion to God. There are no excuses or reasons to shy away from God’s call. Either you are in, or you are not. There is no middle ground. That is where the double minded live, and they are unstable in all that they do.

Why did Jesus seem to set the bar so high? I think Jesus did this because He knew our human tendency to look for ways to get out of what we know we should do. The truth is that we do what we want to do. We have all the time we need to do what matters most. But all too often, we say something is really important and ignore it. We have lied to ourselves. And until we realize that, we just won’t change.

Anyone who is a Christian should hear the call to abandon all and trust God with everything. This requires us to go beyond talk and good intentions. We have to act in faith and divine empowerment as enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Check out this related devotion at http://utmost.org/the-go-of-renunciation/

Are You Living in Your Divine Calling?

While in discussion with some students at The Mix tonight, I noticed how they all seemed to think of the term “calling” as it relates to their future job or career. We were discussing God’s callings for our lives. It was a fairly open context. But the discussion tended to gravitate toward skills, interests and careers.

Sometimes we tend to think our call is just about what we do as a job. But it is so much more than that. It really touches every area of life. Our calling is really whatever the Holy Spirit is directing us to do at the moment. I believe that our calling is both a very complex and simple thing. Really, our calling can change through the years as we transition through various phases of life. What we do when we are sixteen is not likley to represent our life 10 years later, 20 years later or 40 years later.

Yet, as a Christian there are some callings that I believe are not unique to me. But they are part of the calling for every true believer. All Christians are called to love God and live for His Kingdom and glory. We are all called to be witnesses of Christ’s message and be connected to a body of local believers. We are all called to pray, read the Bible and seek to know God better.

Thinking about my own calling, I am reminded of what the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart ten years ago when I went out to Kansas City to pray at IHOP just as the prayer center was getting its start. I believe God placed the following four key calls on my life: 1.) Seek God’s face in a personal, intimate relationship, 2.) Write revelation that God reveals as I seek His face, 3.) Pray for those God has called me to love, 4.) Disciple the remnant.

The first part of my calling is very generic. All Christians are to seek Christ. But the second was unique to me. I was to write the revelation that the Spirit showed me as I seek God. The third connected to the fourth. Prayer was to fuel my ministry to disciple and train up future leaders in God’s Kingdom. All of these callings developed through the years. For example, I came up with a pretty well developed sense of what God meant by remnant.

I am seeking all four callings in some respects in my life today. None of these callings are directly related to my job as a journalist and publisher serving the forest products and logistics industries. My job provides me the resources, time and flexibility to carry out these callings.

It seems that sometimes when people are young they get all worked up over what they are going to do with their life. My suggestion is to simply give it away to God. Realize that your career path may change, but your identity as a Christian doesn’t – in time you only get to know the real you better.

I believe that more than worrying about your future career, the best thing to do is to make sure that you are living for God today. Focus on whatever path you are on to live as much as possible for God. Sure, you can prepare, study, and make smart education and lifestyle decisions. Education, training, hard work are all good things. You should think about the future. But you should not get so worked up over your decisions that you fail to realize how you walk down whatever path you take is as important as which path you choose to take.

Are you living in your divine calling? Stop to ask the Holy Spirit today to help you get to know the real you.