Identity

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Galatians 2:19-21 19 I died to the Law through the Law, so that I could live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I don’t ignore the grace of God, because if we become righteous through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose.

We often go through life, through our day, it seems we get more preoccupied with what we are able to accomplish than our reason for doing what we do. Our to-do lists fill out day with stuff to do that we can easily forget who we are. We can also be so adamant about following rules that we forget to be in relationship with other people. This means that we identify ourselves with what we are able to accomplish rather than who we really are.

If I were to ask you who you are, how would you answer? Would your first response be to say what you do for a living? If you are a Christian would you say you are a Christian ____(profession)  ? The challenge everyday is to remember not only the reason we do what we do, but who we really are. Our real identity is not in what we do. Our identity is found in Jesus Christ.

We can also begin to remember our past and what we have done. Then we may say that I am a “thief, liar, cheater, loser, hypocrite, uneducated, etc.” These are not who we are. If we identify with how we used to live, then we can keep ourselves down and allow our past to control and define us rather than the One who lives in us.

Now we get to today’s text. This has been an important passage (more specifically Galatians 2:20) in my life and reminding me who I am and who/what I live for.

Paul is teaching that he died to the Law. What does this mean? The Law (found in the first five books of the Bible) is basically a “check-off list” (to put it into today’s terms) that people followed so they can prove and show they want to be forgiven or have God bless and not curse them. Living with an attitude to try and make God do things because we do certain things can create a superstitious thinking. We can also become “slaves” to the Law and allow our actions to be so routine that we can forget the real meaning behind them.

Though Paul remained Jewish, he did not let the Law define how he would connect to God. We shouldn’t either. He then says that he has been “crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” He knew that he was being transformed into the image of Christ more and more each day. It was made clear that Christ’s dreams were Paul’s dreams. Christ’s thoughts were Paul’s thoughts. Christ’s motivations were Paul’s motivations. So did Paul lose his individual identity? Absolutely not! He became more and more human as God intended from the beginning. Now Paul is free from the Law and is free to live as Christ did (and does in us when we allow him in).

Living with this kind of faith can help us love people more, reach out to those hurting or in need (physical and spiritual need), telling people about the Kingdom of God around us. This is incredible freedom because we are not bound to what people think about us and we do not let material items or “check-off” lists define us.

You can have this incredible gift of freedom too! As we continue in the book of Galatians we will continue to unpack the idea of freedom in Christ.

Tomorrow we begin Galatians 3.

#LiveFreeInChrist

December 15: Prepare

2014 Advent Devotional

Luke 2:8-10 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.

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Now we get to an interesting part of our journey toward Christmas and celebrating Jesus’ coming into the world. God sent angels to the nobodies of society – the shepherds.

This is really awesome for us today. When you and I do not feel like God would make himself (or his plans) known to us because of our past or because we do not feel like we matter; just remember that God sent his angelic messengers to the lowly, smelly, outcasted shepherds in the field. God does this today too!

What an incredible gift it was for the grungy shepherds to be the first people to see the newborn baby Jesus. This shows that the King of Glory is interested in and invites those the world looks down upon. So if you do not feel like you matter, just remember that Jesus is inviting you to witness his birth and entry into the world. AND Jesus is inviting you and I to be in his presence.

You matter to God and he comes to you!

Gracious and Holy God, thank you for coming to earth and for inviting us to be with you all the time. We do not always feel like we’re worthy. Help us to see you and experience your presence daily. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Sabbath Rest

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus calls for those who are weary and burdened to come to him and he will give rest.

Rest. Our culture says that on our days off we should fill them  with play and non-work activities. At the end of the weekend, it is no wonder we do not feel rested. We really need to take time off from our time off!

Jesus is proposing a different kind of rest. In the rest he gives, we do not just try to stay busy and fill the time with activities we do not have time for during the week. When we rest, we focus on him and allow his Spirit to fill us. We take the time to be quiet before him. We look at the world differenly: not as projects or tasks to accomplish,  but as the incredible creation it is. We’ll be kinder toward other people who otherwise may annoy or frustrate us. We’ll instead see them as God’s masterpiecs who need to be reminded who and whose they are.

It is in this kind of rest, when we focus the attention off of ourselves that we can hear the “still small voice” of God who is calling out to us and desiring to be our guide.

May we rest and experience the true fullness of life that God through Jesus Christ givesto each person who is still and listens for the voice of Truth.

Faded Reflections

If I were to ask you what you least liked about yourself you may go quiet and say you don’t want to talk about it, or you may quickly say something regarding your apearance. Why do we do this? Why do we see the worst in ourselves when our friends and others can see the best in us? It seems to be human nature to be pessimistic when it comes to our appearance or our perceived value we bring; but this means we’re just listening to the wrong voice.

I fall into this false paradigm about myself more than I care to admit. Most of ths time this way of thinking comes when someone cancels a meeting or shoots down an idea that has been on my mind for a while.  Sometimes I even fall into thinking I’m not good enough or “cool” enough to be in a position oraround certain types of people.

When we fall into this way of thinking, we should ask ourselves what voice are we really listening to? Do we listen to the voice that tells us we’re not that good, or to the voice that tries to tell us we are worth something?

The real challenge is to remember to not stay focused soley on us.  We should remember there are many people who think differently about us; people who know the real us.

It doesn’t take long for me to get out of a funk like this. The thing that helps me is I begin to talk with God. This may be something difficult for some  people; but there are ways we can take the focus off us. We can go to a park or find a place that will bring you joy. Finding a person to talk with helps a lot and so does writing down thoughts in a journal.

Whatever you do to get out of a bad state of mind, do it and come to the truth that you are special and have more value than comes to mind at times.

Sacrifices Today

A common scripture we may hear is Romans 12:1-2.

Let’s read this and see again what it says:
So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature. (‭Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭1-2‬ CEB)

What is something you noticed? As I was going about my day, the notion of a “living sacrifice” kept coming up in my thoughts.

Dictionary.com defines sacrifice as
noun
1. the offering of animal, plant, or human life or of some material possession to a deity, as in propitiation or homage.
2. the person, animal, or thing so offered.
3. the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.

Thinking about this, I wandered if we are “living sacrifices” so others can see Christ in us.

Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Yes, we are called to “die daily” to ourselves, and “pick up our cross daily;” but these are figurative.

Sacrifice can be anything from giving money away we could us to taking someone’s place in death to save them. If we are to be “living sacrifices,” what have we done today or what can we do tomorrow?

One of the things I enjoy sacrificing is my time. Sure I have plenty to do; but the opportunity to spend quality time with another person is incredible. What I am freely able to give is my time. I could pick up a phone and call someone and talk; but it is so much more fun and meaningful (for me) to sit and give undivided time face to face.

In a world where sacrificing seems to be a taboo lifestyle because we have to look out for ourselves, we have the chance to show greater love, care, compassion when we really give of ourselves. This is how we won’t be “conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans‬ ‭12‬:2).

Now it’s your turn. How do you think you can be a “living sacrifice” to someone (family, friend, co-worker, acquaintance, stranger) the next time you leave the comfort of your home?

Learning About God at the Beach

Standing on the beach and staring at the ocean can make us feel small. We may even feel like there is so much going on around us (birds flying and feeding, waves never ending, avoiding sea weed and jellyfish). With all of this going on around us, it can be difficult to see or hear from God; or even allow our minds and spirits to be quiet and calm so we can learn more about God.

Two mornings in a row, I’ve had the opportunity to just walk on the beach and learn 3 amazing things about God, God speaking to us, and something about us:

1) We have heard God’s love is like the ocean (vast, endless and never ending). As the waves were coming in, it occurred to me something is trying to stop them or at least break them apart. Then, looking at the land and feeling the breeze, it dawned on me that we are like the land and the breeze. We’ll try and try to stop God and His love from reaching us; but it just keeps coming and reaching out for us.

2) We can see there are many waves and they can be loud. We know the waves are there but we also have ways of tuning the sound and the presence of waves out. It was at this point I felt God saying the waves are like His voice, His words trying to speak to us. A question to think about is: How often do we really pay attention and tune in to hear the voice of God instead of ignoring it? Water is life. Without water, the land would dry up. So is the same with us when we try to avoid and run away from God. We need His life giving spirit each and everyday.

3) Last but not least. This morning there was a lone sea gull trying to search for food and wandering about. This reminded me of us, as humans. We are constantly reaching out and wandering about to find something, anything that will fill us up. Just as the water kept coming toward the land and the sea gull, God is always reaching for us. It is in Him we find fulfillment. It is in Him we find spiritual nourishment. It is in Him we find our purpose.

My prayer is that we never look at the beach or the ocean the same way again. May we be the people who see God everywhere!

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Our Real Gift

I’m not perfect.

There, I said it. This may come as a shock to some, but not for most. I do not pretend to be perfect. When I think about my past, I can see and remember things I’ve done and said that can cause regrets.

I bet there are many people, in fact I know there are many people, who can say the same things. The question we would have to ask is, “do I allow these past actions define me?” It is easy to dwell on the past mistakes (let’s be honest….these past SINS) and to think that is who we really are. “I am a liar…I am cheater…I am a (fill in your answer).”

Here’s the deal though, we can allow these past decisions to define us, or we can realize our true identity. We may not see ourselves as perfect or “new creations,” but God does.

His love has been handed to us and placed before us in the form of Jesus Christ. Because of his life, death and resurrection, we can have and experience a new life and new identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Romans 5:8-11 says Christ died for us while we were still sinners so we have a reconciled relationship with God.

So many people (including me at times) don’t know, forget or don’t realize this incredible gift God has given you and has given me. Each day you and I are invited to accept, open and receive the gift of life God gives through Jesus Christ.

You’ve messed up and don’t feel you can be accepted by God? You are accepted AND loved! Live your new life in grace and holiness and live life with the knowledge of God working and living inside you.

Don’t live in the past, live in the presence of God by receiving the gift of Jesus Christ.

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