If you have ever had your identity stolen, it is not a joyous experience. Someone gets a hold of your debit or credit card numbers and if it is not caught in time you have charges that need to come off and it is a great hassle. While technology can we a good thing when it comes to the vulnerability of our identity it is a bad thing.
Quite often the enemy whose name is Satan like to steal our identity. He like for us to forget who we are in Christ. Because if we forget who we are then we not live it out. We will live powerless, defeated lives. This is why it is so important you know who you are.
If you have trusted Christ as your Savior you have been adopted into God's Family. You are now His Child!! You have all the right and privileges as an Heir. But I believe too many people do not understand this identity and become servants instead of sons.
Think about it. As a servant you want to please and perform for your master. There is no personal relationship. You just work, work, work and hope he is pleased with your performance. This is how many followers of Jesus approach God. They work hard to check boxes in their attempts to perform in the right way. But that is not what a son does. A son enjoys a rich relationship with the Father. He has joy to do whatever is pleasing to the Father. He does not need to perform because He is a son.
So who are you? In Christ you are a Son of God!!! You and I have full rights and privileges. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
In John chapter 3, Jesus encounters a man named Nicodemus. The incredible part of this story is that Nicodemus thought he was following God. He probably thought that his entire life. Let me set it up. Nicodemus was a scholar. He was a very intelligent man and had an aptitude for studying he was good at it. He not only was a Rabbi but also a Pharisee and on the Jewish ruling council. This is an impressive resume. All the while thinking he is following God when he isn't.
At some point He hears Jesus teach and listens to all the things said about him. Nicodemus asks for a meeting with Jesus at night. He cannot be seen by others or he could have lost his position. So in the late hours of the night so no one knows Nicodemus goes and meets with Jesus.
Nicodemus and his impressive resume are missing one thing: new birth. Nicodemus had done great things, but had never experienced new birth. Jesus taught him a simple truth "if you are born once you will die twice but if you are born twice you will die once". He struggled through the conversation to figure out what Jesus was meaning and what He was going to do about it.
If we are honest there are many going to church who are just like Nicodemus. They would affirm the fact they are following God, but when asked why you hear some interesting things. You begin to hear resumes quoted and achievements made and nothing about Savior who died for us. We leave the path of following Jesus when we put our trust in our accomplishments and not His. When we think we have done great things when it is Christ who has done the great thing. I wonder just how many who sit in a church on Sunday think they are following Jesus when they are not.
Nicodemus goes on and we learn he stands up for Jesus and then helps Joseph bury Jesus. There are some traditions which call him Saint Nicodemus and say he died for his faith in Christ. But we just don't know. If things changed it is because he left the religious path and started to follow Jesus.
What about you? Religious or Regenerated? You can't follow Jesus and be religious. When we are religious we leave the path of following Jesus and depend on our accomplishments to save us. Stop. Follow Jesus
Last night I found myself watching a show all about the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. It was so amazing our family is hoping to go for a visit sometime. What was different is that this library is not a shrine to Billy Graham but a place which is all about Jesus Christ.
What is more amazing is to think about what God can do in a life. Billy Graham was not wealthy. He didn't come from a rich and successful family. He simply turned his life over to God and made a decision to follow Jesus. And what God did in a life is absolutely amazing. Billy Graham is probably one of the best known people in the world!!! Why? God did that in a life. God took a like committed to Him and did something extraordinary and amazing with it.
But Billy Graham's story can also be your story. You have no idea what God can do in your life if you would follow Him. NO idea!! If God can take a poor son of a dairy farmer and put him on the world stage to preach the Gospel then anything is possible with God. Nothing is out of his reach. He might use your life to reach the next generation.
Billy's son Franklin said his dad recognizes that EVERYTHING has come from God and before He leaves this world to go to his real home he wants to give it all back to God. What a statement!! What a life!! A life that chose to follow Jesus and leave the results up to God.
You have no idea what God might do in your life if you would follow Him.
In the Old Testament we find a man named Joseph who went through some unbelievable things. He was beat up by his brothers and thrown down into a well. They took him and sold him into slavery. He goes to Egypt and is enslaved to a man named Potiphar. Things are beginning to get better when Potiphar's wife wants to sleep with Joseph and when he refuses she accuses him of trying to rape her. Joseph is sent to jail. No trial. No assistance from anyone he sits in jail. When we helps the cupbearer and the baker. He told them their dreams and the cupbearer promises to remember Joseph but he forgets until Pharaoh has a dream. Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream and He puts him in charge of the land. And when his brothers show up needing food he loves and forgives them. Joseph says "You meant it for evil but God intended it for good".
So if you have ever doubted that God could use your hardships and suffering don't. He can and He does use them to bring Him glory.
This was on full display last night. Rick and Kay Warren did an hour long interview on CNN. I watched the first 15 minutes and then recorded the rest to hopefully watch soon. Early on in the interview Rick reminded all of us that God wants to use our pain to bring Him glory. IT certainly did last night. A pain ridden couple whose son committed suicide spoke of the mercy and grace of God in such a way it touched millions. God can and does use our sufferings in ways we can't imagine.
So what has happened in your life which you would like to forget about? Let God take it and use it. You will be surprised on how much healing it does for you and how God can use it touch many, many lives.
God can and does use our suffering to bring Him glory and help others. Give Him Yours!!
It is Saturday and you are making your usual track to the mail box to see what might be waiting for you. Quite often it is only bills and junk mail, but today there is a special envelope. From the size, shape and quality of the envelope you know this is not something ordinary but special. It looks to be about the size of an invitation to a special event and sure enough it is an invitation. But this is not just an ordinary invitation to a wedding or baby shower, rather this is an invitation from Jesus himself. The invitation is personalized with your name and signed Your Savior, Jesus. And there are only two words written "Follow Me".
I hope painting a scene like this will help you and I understand the beautiful invitation which Jesus gives us to Follow Him. It is unlike any invitation you will ever receive. And even though it cost Jesus his life to offer this invitation, the choice is left up to us whether we will accept or reject.
There are some things you should know about this invitation. This is an invitation to come and die and let Christ live in you. This is an invitation in which everyone is included but is very personal in nature. This is an invitation which will transform your life. Jesus will transform you from the inside out. Finally this is an invitation which is life-changing. You have no idea where Jesus might lead you. Jesus has lead some to foreign lands to make disciples while others simply across the street to do the same. But the journey is life-changing.
So what have you done with your invitation? Is it sitting in a junk drawer or perhaps it is jammed in with our mail you need to respond to? Perhaps you said yes only to realize at some point you left the path with Jesus to pursue something else. Today is great day to sing the simple phrase from the chorus "I have decided to follow Jesus no turning back no turning back."
You and I have been invited to follow Jesus.
Are you following Him?
When you reach a day like today the images and the memories are burned into your mind. You remember where you were 12 years ago. What you were doing when the news of the attacks came in. It is that point in a generation which you talk about to your kids and grandkids about that day.
So here we are 12 years later and what have we learned from the events of that day 12 years ago. Have we learned anything? Let me offer a couple of suggestions.
1) Evil is alive and well.
If you ever doubted the existence of evil that day always serves as a great reminder. Men who for no other reason then hate flew planes into buildings. Thinking they have obtained an eternal reward when in reality they died apart from Christ and now spend eternity without Him. We should never forget how far hate and evil can drive someone. We should repent of our evil and hate and ask God to so move in us so we live and walk differently. A heart which has turned to evil and hate has no stopping point to the destruction it can cause.
2) Life is fragile and sacred.
The stories from that day are amazing. I was reading one the other other day of a man who lead the way for many to safety. He even carried a woman down many flights of stairs. He died along side firefighters helping in the rescue when the towers collapsed. He helped everyone possible because life is sacred. And in the end lost is own because life is fragile. We must regain this belief. Life is from God. He breathed into us the breath of life. That makes all life sacred. And we must protect life because it is fragile. It is a beautiful combination which God has created.
3) Only God can bring good from evil.
Many incredible stories were told on that day. From flight 93 and the "Let's Roll" comment from Todd Beamer to people helping on another out. God did some wonderful things on that day. Yes there are some who will wonder why he didn't stop those planes, but others who recognize God doing some amazing things out of the evil brought to us. Joseph in the Old Testament saw this as well. He saw God work in ways that were amazing. Evil was done to him but God transformed it to good. We need to let God do this in all areas of our life where evil shows up. Because only He can.
Please remember today will be hard for many. The lives of their loved ones was stolen away by evil men. Pray that God who is the great comforter will meet them in their lives today.
May we never forget the lessons of that day.
Check out this verse: "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:10
I came back to this verse over the past few weeks when hearing of a situation in a family where both consider themselves Christians. One is not doing good at all. And it is so hard to watch because you are not sure what you can do to help.
We should look for opportunities to do good to one another, especially if we belong to the Family of God. Sometimes we who are followers of Jesus treat other followers of Jesus the worst of all. That is wrong!!! What does this verse say "Especially to those who belong to the family of believers". Go the extra mile for those who belong to the family of believers.
I wonder if this is one of the things keeping people from the church. Too many horror stories of Christians treating one another like garbage. The world sees that. What if instead people said "my church family treats me the best" we might make a huge difference in the world.
This is why I love the opportunity to make supper last night for the Lathrop family. Sometimes we miss the opportunities but I know many of ladies make sure we help people out after surgeries and other things. Taking a meal isn't hard but it does show kindness and support at a time when needed. I want Wendy to know her church family will treat her better than anyone else.
So what about you?? How are you doing good especially to those in the family of believers? Let's start raising the level of our doing good to each other.
If you have a Twitter account take a moment and look at who you are following? You will find the things you enjoy. Twitter can be a good measurement for us to understand the things we follow the most. It will help us to know what might be the obstacles in our life to following Jesus.
One of the things we must understand is Jesus will not take second place in our life. He will not be put on a shelf. He will just watch us go and follow after other things when the answer is in Him all along. And most of the things we follow are actually gifts from God but we worship the gift instead of the giver of that gift.
One of the big ones in our culture is Sports. Did you know the SEC Conference spends nearly 1 billion dollars on athletics in their conference. WOW!!! In fact they spend more than some countries in the world produce annually. And what is actually a gift from God gets worship instead of the giver of that gift.
There are many things we end up giving glory to as gifts and ignoring the giver. And those are the things we are following.
So this week be open to looking at the things you are following. See how they take your time and see that they are gifts from God and we should worship God and not the gifts He gives.
It is amazing some of the things we will try in order to change things we don't like about ourselves. Thousands of books and programs have been written to help people lose weight. People will spend thousands of dollars trying anything to help them stop doing the things they don't want to do. Smoking is another example. People will spend all sorts of money trying to stop. We all have things we know we need to stop doing, but how do we become successful at it?
King David found himself in a situation where he had to start living differently. He had allowed the Attitude of "I'm the King and can do anything I want to do" to take over his life. Believing this lie he counted his troops when he wasn't supposed to. He didn't go to battle, committed adultery, and killed Uriah. Not looking good for King David.
So how does he stop? He repents. Psalms 51 is beautiful. It is what repentance looks like. Repentance has 3 elements to it. First it is confession. In our mind we have to believe we are wrong and then we need to say we are wrong. And we are not wrong because we got caught but because we are wrong!! Second is contrition which is emotion and expression. Ever have someone apologize to you and you know they don't mean it. We do the same thing. I am sorry is not contrition without the accompaniment of the right emotions and expression. We should fell the wrong and it should be evident in our expressions. Finally it is all about change. Authentic repentance always ends up in change. If there is no change there is no repentance. That might sound harsh but to repent is to turn around. We turn to Jesus and away from our destructive behavior.
So the time is now to repent and turn away from sin. It is the only way to change.
Jesus Follower, Husband, Father, and Pastor and trying to keep those in the right order....