Category Archives: Discipleship

Zoom Zoom… Back in Time

Mix Leadership Team Zoom Zoom

Sometimes you don’t know how amazing a group of people are until you are no longer together. I felt this way the other night while on a Zoom call with my former youth group leadership team. We were missing a few characters. But these people all in some way impacted my life and the lives of many amazing students.

Doing youth ministry is a calling, but it is also a blessing — especially when you get a chance to share unforgettable experiences with young people who you know are going to leave a legacy in the world.

So, I wanted to just brag a little bit on my old team.

PD (Daniel Susenbach) – He was the leader of the pack, the eternal optimist. Daniel has never met a stranger. He is the kind of guy who can make you bust a gut laughing and then believe you can do almost anything the next minute. He is one of my best friends, and if I had to be stranded on deserted island with a group of people, I certainly would want him there.

Tim Matthews (Timmmmmm!) – I think he could literally preach the cover off a Bible, and the young people would be like, “Oh man! Do that again.” Tim knew how to say something that you never forget. He also has an amazing life story, and is a ton of fun. With Tim, you know that following Jesus is never boring. {Tim is not in the picture, nor was on the Zoom call 😦  } Next time Tim, next time.

Joanna Fowler (Mrs. J) – She was always the cool mom and administrator. She made us all look good by being prepared for almost anything. Some people who had her job would be kind of by the book. But she always laughed and made everyone feel special. Mrs. J. was the adult in the room who knew how to keep everyone safe. At the same time, she was able to connect with students.

Jim and Melinda Patterson – Yes, these are two people not one. But they are such a great team. They are an amazing couple who I count as very good friends. I love so much about them, especially how different they are from each other. If I was going into spiritual warfare, I can’t think of a better servant and prayer warrior than Jim (P. Diddy). He knows how to get to the root of the matter, and he is willing to go deep and be there for youngsters. Jim is very wise and loves to pun. I even love that about him (just don’t tell him). Melinda is always the voice of reason in the room. She loves people enough to tell them the truth. And she never seems to let much get to her. Oh, and the Pattersons are hilarious when you see them interact together. I chuckling just thinking about some of my discussion with them in their kitchen.

Mama Karen – She was like a mother or older sister to so many of the Mix students. She has always been a youth worker rockstar.  Oh, and she is a great cook. Three words “Baby Angel Cake.” Inside joke, but trust me… so good. Karen is full of love and her name should be caring because she is like 90% heart. Karen knows how to be a safe person in a world full of unhealthy people.

Heidi – Speaking of funny. Literally, I don’t know if I have ever laughed around somebody so much as Heidi. She always knew how to put the truth in a joke. But don’t let her shenanigans fool you, she was wise and knew how to see through student’s crap. Plus, she has this way that her eye twitches when she is upset. It’s sort of like a super power that keeps her from going insane. Heidi connected well with students and is an amazing friend.

Mike Jefferson – Mike really loved the middle school students. In the dictionary under the word “Faithful” is a picture of Mike. Full of the Spirit and always willing to forgive, Mike is one of those guys who makes a bigger impact than anyone realizes. I learned a lot from his gentle demeanor and approach to ministry. He does have a mental disorder because he is a Washington Redskins fan. But nobody is perfect. 😉

Diane Burns – Always represented how parents might feel well in our discussions. She is an amazing prayer warrior who was willing to be there for students. She raised three world-class kids, who are now adults. She has been a super volunteer for years.

Bryan and Darla – Students loved Bryan, and he connected well with some of the outsider kids. Super witty and smart, Bryan is very competitive. He challenged me to be a better youth leader… just don’t tell him I said that. Darla is also competitive and smart. We once played a game of assassin with rubber bands, she killed me by pretending she wanted to have a spiritual discussion. {I never forgot that Darla.} Darla is very logical and dependable. She is just a super solid person who will do what she says she will do.

Super Honorable Mention: Charlie Coker, Emilie Hyatt (Coker) and so many others…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons Why Many People Don’t Answer the Call to Be Christian Mentors

One of the clearest commandments in the New Testament to the disciples, and thus to the Church is to make disciples of all nations. This is one area where we don’t need a call for the Lord. He has already given it. We don’t need to wonder if we are called to help others connect and grow in their relationship with God. That is something all true Christ followers should engage in. And it will look different for everyone. There is no one way to do it.

I will never forget one time when an older man in Virginia said, “I can’t disciple anyone. I don’t know that much about the Bible. I love God, but I couldn’t lead a small group of men talking about the Bible.”

I asked the man, “What do you like to do?” He responded, “I like to work on classic cars.” I suggested, “You mean to tell me that there aren’t some young men in your community who know nothing about cars and wouldn’t love to learn and maybe even drive a classic car after fixing it?” He looked at me and said, “Yeah, I guess that could work. But that isn’t discipleship.” I asked, “Who said? You could teach these young guys about cars and involve some life lessons while you work. You could maybe chat about one Bible verse while you are under the hood replacing parts or changing the oil. All you need to do is be intentional with offering your time and a listening ear.” He said, “Yeah, but what if I don’t know the answer to a Bible question. I replied, “You ain’t God. Just tell you are not sure but will do some digging and praying and get back to them. It’s as easy as that.”

This man left that day with a new definition of discipleship. It isn’t a Bible study or therapy session. Or it doesn’t have to be just that. Discipleship is a walk. It starts with being available and willing to care.

My Discipleship Definition: Connecting people to Christ and leading them to a vibrant relationship with Him, His Church and His mission.

No where in there do you see a requirement to know everything or be a great teacher. Those skills help. But most people just need one thing, your time and attention.

In talking with many people through the years, I have found these four common reasons why many Christians do not answer this call.
1.) Nobody ever did it for me, so I haven’t had a proper model to follow.
2.) I don’t feel qualified because there is so much I don’t know about God and the Bible. Or I am far from perfect and am afraid that I am not ready.
3.) I don’t know who to approach about mentoring and don’t know how to start.
4.) I am too busy doing other things with work, family and ministry.

Reason #1
• You may not have had a good example to follow on this earth. But if God has called you to it, He will equip you to do it.
Matthew 28:19 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

• Jesus is our example. (Matthew 16:24 and 1 John 2:6)
• Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting.
• It isn’t too late to seek a mentor yourself.
• Every believer should be investing in their own spiritual development.

Reason #2
• You aren’t supposed to be Bible Answer Man. That’s not what a spiritual mentor is.

There is only one true guru, and His name is Jesus.
1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Reason #3
• The Lord will make a connection and place somebody along your path if you pray and ask for it.
• Grow in Christ and others will be attracted to you. (Colossians 3:16)
• Pray and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13)

Reason #4
• If Jesus commanded us to make disciples, why don’t you think you have time to do it? What is more important than a prime command of Christ?
• We have to move from an additional mindset to an intentional one where we look to involve discipleship in our daily rhythms. It isn’t about doing more. It is about involving more people in your life and spiritual development. The best way to do this is to make one or two meals per month an opportunity to be intentional to help others grow in their relationship with God and others.
• All it takes is one person. Do you have time to invest in the spiritual growth of one person? This may already be somebody that you know.

Dangerous Dreams

One of the most common supernatural experiences in the Bible besides healing is people having incredible dreams or visions of the future. From the first to the last book of the Bible, dreams are part of the human experience. DawnChere Wilkerson spoke at the recent Vous Conference on the impact of our dreams on our lives. She focused more on “dreams” as our hopes and plans for the future. But these dreams are just as important as the supernatural kind because they can impact the course of our lives.

Looking at Acts 4:29-31, the early disciples faced serious risk after Jesus ascended. They were in danger for their very lives. They looked to Christ for strength and miraculous power. And the Holy Spirit showed up and shook the entire place. They were anointed to boldly speak the Gospel.

The experiences of the early Church were likely different than what the disciples had dreamed or imagined. In the middle of persecution and challenge, it would have been easy for them to give up. Disillusionment likely knocked on the door of their hearts. They may have wondered if the words and predictions of Jesus would come true. They may have thought, “Are we being guided by the right dream?”

Peter, John and the others knew that they lived by faith and not by sight. DawnChere warned in her message, “Living the dream is different than dreaming the dream.” You will face challenges living the dream that you may have never imagined when you dreamed the dream. She added, “God is not honored by the size of your dream but your faithfulness to it.”

Dreams can be funny things. They can propel us forward. But they can also sap our strength when they take too long in coming true or work out in a way far different from what we imagined. How can you know if a dream is worth following?

DawnChere offered this key piece of advice. She said, “A dream is not worth following unless it is centered on Jesus.” As Christians, our starting and ending point is new life in Christ. Is this dream taking you closer or farther away from the heart of God?

No matter the dream. At some point, you have to choose what you will believe and follow. In order to live the dream, you have to believe in it enough to follow it. Following God’s dream is a team sport. One of the things you will see in this chapter is how the early Christians supported each other and provided encouragement to hold to the words of Christ. They needed each other to realize the dream. We pick up courage and strength in community.

One of the big reasons that so many people stop chasing the dream is that they get disillusioned along the way. They think they will never reach the dream. But many times, God is doing more than you can see. He is working behind the scenes and is way ahead of you. As DawnChere challenged, “First comes faith than the fortitude.”

Frequently in life, you will have huge setbacks in realizing your dream. Joseph in Genesis is a great example of this reality. He had amazing dreams. Then, he was abused by his brothers, sold into slavery and taken to a far-off land. He was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison. He was forgotten in jail by those he had helped. Joseph had a lot of experiences stacked against those dreams. DawnChere admitted, “Just like Joseph, sometimes living your dream is a nightmare.”

Even though the number of bad days may have far outnumbered the good days, what God did in the good days overcame and restored what was lost in the many bad days. God can restore in an instant what we have lost in a lifetime. Joseph had to activate his dream by choosing to forgive and do what was right. There are some opportunities you can’t enter into until you forgive and let go of the pain in the past. This isn’t letting others off the hook. It is allowing God to administer justice. You may struggle to do this on your own, but the Lord is right there to help you.

Going back to the early Church in Acts, they prayed and sought the Lord even though they weren’t sure what was going to happen. Along the way, they discovered that knowing and realizing the presence of the Holy Spirit in greater measure is living the dream. The Holy Spirit produced courage and brought assurance that they were not alone. The reality is the early believers were in over their heads. As DawnChere pointed out, “God hasn’t called you to do hard stuff but impossible stuff.”

That is why every believer needs a growing relationship with the Holy Spirit. He convicts the world of sin, equips the Church and reveals the thoughts and mind of Christ. This dream is a dangerous dream because it will upset our self-focused, little worlds. But in the end, it is the only dream worth really dreaming.

Doors Open, Doors Close

Over the last few years, I have been on an amazing ride with a number of other believers to create a gap year discipleship program for young adults in the Richmond area. After a successful first class last year, I thought the dream was really catching on. But over the the last year despite a significant recruiting efforts, RVA LEADS has not been able to obtain enough students to launch a second class in 2017/2018. We might have been able to reach our goal if we significantly changed the model and cut our costs structure. And at the same time we faced some staff challenges with major members of our core team experiencing some major life shifts. With all of these things going on, it became clear to me that we couldn’t really pull off LEADS this year and have it be the caliber program we want with the right number of students.

At the same time, some opportunities have opened up for me out West in Colorado. It is amazing how one door closes and another opens. I am reminded of what it says in Scripture, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I have lived in Richmond for so long. It is hard to imagine moving. But in late October, I am going to be moving out West to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I will be serving on the leadership team for Protege, the discipleship program run by my good friend, Daniel Susenbach. In addition, I expect to jump right into some leadership opportunities at Steamboat Christian Center. And I am looking forward to finally realizing a dream of living out West in the mountains.

Don’t fret my Richmond friends. 🙂 I will still be traveling back and forth from time to time as my job and family still reside in the Richmond area. Hopefully, some time in late October I will have a final going away shindig for friends to stop by and see me before I depart.

I am very excited for what God is doing. The Protege participants are amazing, and I look forward to working with them to spur them onto deeper discipleship.

It is hard to see a dream sort of die. But I think that God used LEADS to teach me so much. I am so thankful for all of the work of our staff and volunteers. I am so grateful for the students who went through the first year’s class. And I believe that the Lord is going to use what I learned to help others in some way in the near future with the gap year movement. I am just not quite sure how yet.

I am still around for about a month or so. Call or text me if you want to connect in  person. Godspeed — Chaille

What Does God Want from Me?

A lot of people talk about doing the will of God. But to do that, we must know what He truly wants. God could have made this easy on us by writing in the sky, sending angels to answer all of our questions or making the Bible more like a manual or Life for Dummies book. But He didn’t do any of those things. Why is this hearing from God thing so tough? Some people talk as if everything is clear. Others honestly admit that they listen for God and all they hear is the sound of crickets. 

If there are so many paths in front of us, why doesn’t God simply remove the distractions? The good Lord could remove all room for doubt. But then would we really ever have faith or free will?

When many people think about the will of God, they automatically gravitate toward what they are supposed to do for God. But honestly, if God is really God, He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. His plan does include human involvement. But that isn’t out of necessity. It must be for some other reason.

Talking with a high schooler today, I was inspired to write this post. Too often we think of God’s will as a place, action or destination. But what if it is something bigger and yet more basic? What if our thinking about this question is all wrong?

The Bible says we are to take up our cross daily, which seems to suggest that sacrifice is required to do God’s will. But the Old Testament also states that “obedience is better than sacrifice.” The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to become mature in their faith and the fruit of the Spirit. And yet, Jesus said that we could not even enter the Kingdom of God unless we have the faith of a little child. Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make more disciples, which suggests the focus of our mission should be about other people. But Jesus also said that we can do nothing apart from His power and life. So which mission is primary to know and love God or to share the Gospel, make disciples and extend His Kingdom on the earth?

The problem is that we tend to look at this as an either or situation. And in reality, outreach flows from our personal walk with God. As I have pondered this question, I believe the true mission for every Christian is the prayer that David prayed in Psalms 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”

The primary mission of a Christian is to know and love God. It all starts with our personal relationship with Jesus. He is the living water as Scripture explains. Just as we need water to sustain life, we must have a relationship with God to live in the way as the Creator intended. This involves a wide variety of experiences and actions, such as reading and following sacred Scripture, prayer, obedience to the Word of God, thanksgiving, recognition of God’s power and presence in daily life, sacraments, spiritual gifts and miracles, confessions of faith, sharing the Gospel, etc.

And in order to have living water that remains alive and pure, it must have an outlet. Otherwise, we become like a stagnant pool where disease and bacteria can grow. That is why part of the Christian mission is to share the love and truth that God has deposited into our lives.

The Lord has given us a picture of this reality in the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. It is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet because it is located at such a low point. Everything flows downhill and mineral deposits collect killing aquatic life. If you simply receive from God and do not give it away, you will become full and not be able to receive any more. And what had previously been living water can become stagnant, less useful and a breading pool for disease. This picture demonstrates the dual nature of God’s ultimate purpose for humanity. It can be seen in the words of Jesus. He summed up the law and the prophet by saying, “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).

How you go about doing that is what makes you unique. The key is realizing that God’s will for your life is more about the journey you take with God and the person you become along the way than what you do for God or which path you choose to take.

Follow Me…

Christianity starts with this simple command that Jesus gave His disciples. He said, “Come, follow me.” The Apostle Paul said that people should follow him as he followed Christ. When we are called to make disciples, we are inviting others to follow our example as we seek to be like Jesus.

This should cause all Christians to stop and ponder what others would be like if they followed their example. Does your life look like Christ? Do others see Jesus in you? Will your life be an example for others to follow?

Chances are that others are following your example. You may not realize. But it is especially true if you are a parent, a boss, a teacher, a church leader, etc. At some point in your life, you are likely the most powerful/important person in the room. How you handle this responsibility is critical. And the best way to live a life worth mimicking is to follow how Jesus lived.

We are called to make disciples of Christ not of us. And the only way to do that is to continue to pursue and to strive to live like Christ by God’s power and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So who are you following? And what kind of example are you setting? The little things do matter.

Knowing Jesus Changes Everything

I just got joy bombed, or at least that is what I call it after listening to Joy Dawson speak on the subject of following Jesus and the glory of God. Dawson is an internationally known speaker and evangelist. But the real important thing is that she listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to promote Jesus as the model for how we should live.

Dawson said, “We don’t know Jesus yet. We don’t understand what we are asking when we ask to see God’s glory.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. The apostle John spent years walking and living with Jesus during His earthly ministry. But when he received a revelation of the glory of Christ while exiled on the island of Patmos, he fell down as dead before the One he had known so well. This was Jesus in holiness and in fire. This was God in just part of His glory, and John was undone.

Have I ever experienced God like this? The answer is no. Few of us have. The apostle John received a great revelation that day. We still study it today in the book of Revelation – the unveiling of the glory of God. John received this great revelation while on a prison island – a dark place meant to isolate John could not keep him from what God wanted to reveal. This gives me hope.

Dawson said, “We can go through anything if we focus on Jesus, but it is a choice.” That is so true. The apostle John could have let his circumstances cloud out his heart for Christ. But that didn’t happen, because he chose to seek God even in the midst of darkness and isolation. Do you really want to have a deep, loving relationship with God? It is possible. But it does come at a great price. Jesus paid that price on the cross. And we have to pay a price to follow Him, but it is worth the cost.

Dawson said that Jesus came down to the earth for five basic reasons. These were to 1.) Show us what the Father is like, 2.) Die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, 3.) Defeat satan and demonic powers, 4.) Show us how to live, and 5.) To be our life.
And Dawson asked what does the Lord require of His followers. She said, “Obedience is all that Jesus wants at any one time.”

The message of Jesus was simple. He put little children in front of the disciples as an example of the kind of faith they should have. Dawson added that Jesus called His followers to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and to obey Him, and to go do and tell what was commanded. It really is quite simple as long as you stay close to God and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brought to mind a question that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Can Jesus be your savior if He is not your Lord? Dawson suggested that obedience is a prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ. We spend too much time playing church and not enough of our lives being the Church. She said, “Satan doesn’t care how much that you sing to God in a church building if you do not get radical and go out and what Jesus did.”

Jesus preached the Gospel. Why don’t we? Jesus fed the poor? Why don’t we? Jesus comforted the broken hearted. Why don’t we? Jesus healed the sick. Why don’t we? Jesus challenged dead religion. Why don’t we? Jesus spoke in power and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we?

Sure, some Christians do some of these things. But many of us don’t follow Christ’s example as much as we should in our daily lives.

As Dawson finished speaking this morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read I John 2:1-6. I particularly noticed a connection with what Dawson said and verses 3-6. The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The apostle John clearly stated that those who know Christ should live as He did and obey His commands. Jesus gave a commission to His followers to spread His message and make disciples. Jesus has called us to preach to the lost and pray for the sick. Jesus declared that those who come after Him would do greater things than He did because He was leaving the work of the Church to us. While we will never be God nor ransom the world from sin and death, we do have the awesome privilege of caring the influence of Christ around the globe.

So do you really know Jesus? One true encounter with Him changes everything.

Where is the Gospel?

More than any other book in a long time, Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson has really challenged how I look at what it means to be a Christian. And it has led me to rethink some of my practices when it comes to discipleship.

Dodson wrote, “Knowingly or unknowingly, everyone puts something in the center of discipleship.” For some people it is church activities while others focus on missions or following religious rules or observing rituals and liturgy. It can be easy to focus on leadership development or thinking of discipleship as merely leading a small group or a book study. Some see discipleship as primarily a personal thing while others believe it is best experienced in community.

At the center of discipleship should be Jesus because He is the one we are to follow and worship with our lives as Christians. Dodson’s premise is that many people have only a partial view or understanding of the Gospel. Some focus on forgiveness of sins and redemption while others believe in and practice the ability to be free from the grip of sin and temptation. Still some are dedicated to studying the life of Christ in the Bible and following His example, and yet they ignore the importance of the Holy Spirit. Dodson wrote, “Without the Spirit, we are powerless to believe the Gospel of Jesus , but those who are in Christ have the most powerful motivation for discipleship present in them — the very Spirit of God.”

So I have really started to ask myself, “What really is the Gospel?” And when I encounter a situation or choice to make I am asking, “How can I see the Gospel in action by how I think or act to a given situation?”

Quite simply the Gospel is the story of God redeeming, restoring and liberating humanity and the world from the impact of sin and death through Jesus, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God. It is ultimately about freedom and reconciling fallen humanity to a right relationship with God.

So in your life, if you are a Christian, you should be thinking how you can respond and act in ways that bring the Gospel to whatever situation you encounter. Where is the Gospel? It should influence our words, actions and thoughts as followers of Christ. It is not just a message about Jesus 2,000 years ago or merely doctrine to be affirmed in church. It is a lasting truth and present reality that impacts our lives and the world every day.

In future blog posts, I plan to cover more insights from Dodson’s book and hope to share my journey to more meaningful and intentional discipleship.

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?

Hearing the Voice of God

Through the years, I have definitely struggled to know the heart of God and understand when He is truly speaking to me about something. I wonder, “Is that really God or is that just bad Taco Bell that I ate last night?” I have even asked, “Why does God sound sarcastic?” I have also thought, “That must be God because I would never think something like that.”

I recently spoke at the Mix  youth group retreat on hearing the voice of God. And as the Lord frequently likes to do, He gave me an opportunity to practice what I preach the morning that I was supposed to speak. I woke up and spent some time listening and praying. The idea kept coming up that I was supposed to sing “Jesus Loves Me” over the middle school and high school students at the retreat as I started my talk. But I wondered why that would be a good idea. After all, these are teens. They will think Jesus loves me is for little children. Plus, I thought, “What does that have to do with my topic?”

Sure enough, the Lord used another Christian to confirm what He had spoken to my heart. A good friend and brother in the Lord walked up to me and said that he felt impressed to remind me that many of these teens struggle to hear God’s voice because they have the wrong notion of who God is. They believe that God is angry with them or is a harsh, demanding Father. This friend said that they need to know that Jesus loves them before they can listen to the voice of God.

This was the confirmation that I needed to hear. I explained my struggles that morning and set up song. I told the crowd that this was a demonstration of hearing the voice of God and taking a small risk. As I sang, I believe that something broke over the hearts of many in the room that morming. One student came up and said what I did was liberating. Others said they just felt God’s love all over what I was saying.

Here are some of the key points that I shared that morning. May these little insights help you discern whether the voice in your head is really from God or some other source.

Things to consider when testing a voice….

1.) Does this sound like something Jesus would say? Does it line up with the Bible?

2.) God speaks to us through someone us. Many times this is to confirm or put perspective on what God has already been laying on our hearts.

3.) God isn’t usually urgent or in a rush. Jesus even took His time when it came to healing Lazarus.

4.) God’s voice may surprise us. It might unsettle us. Just ask little Samuel, the first time that he heard from God, the Lord spoke a harsh word about Samuel’s spiritual mentor.

5.) God may not work in us or speak to us in the same way that He does with other people.

6.) God’s voice will prepare us for the future although He doesn’t usually give us all the details.

7.) Does this voice agree that Jesus came in the flesh? (1 John 4:1-6) The voice of God will lift up Jesus as the source of live and God’s revival power. Jesus came down as a man and can relate to your experiences.

8.) The voice of God never calls us to do something that only God can do.  For example, God will not push you to change your heart. Instead, He will ask you to yield to His power and then maybe go act in a way that aligns with this heart change.

9.) God knows where we are and won’t test us beyond what we can bear in Him.

10.) God’s voice will always be calling us to Himself never driving us away. God’s voice may  sound harsh at times, but it is always inviting us to greater relationship and truth.

11.) God may convict us of sin, but He won’t condemn us for it.

12.) God’s voice frequently will call us to action or rest. God may call us to take a leap of faith. Or quite the opposite, He may tell us to rest from our labors and trust in Him. Both of these require faith because we have to let go and trust God with the situation.