My True Identity

My Roles

Wife. Mother. Daughter. Friend. Writer. Editor. Teacher. Runner. Cyclist. Reader. Homemaker.

These are my roles. They fluctuate with the changing seasons of my life. Some rolls come and go. None of my rolls define me. They are the avenues for expressing my identity.

My Physical Identity

Height. Weight. Sex. Shoe size. Fingerprint. Hair color. Eye color. Speed. Ability.

These are what make up my physical identity. Some never change while others fluctuate. And even though there’s a permanence to my physical identity, it still doesn’t define my true identity.

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)

My True Identity

My role and my physical identity significantly impacts how my life plays out. Yet, they are still only tools and expressions for my true identity. What I believe about my true identity directs the roles I live and the way I use my physical attributes and abilities.

“You’re a good, good Father. It’s who You are. It’s who You are. It’s who You are. And I am loved by You. It’s who I am. It’s who I am. It’s who I am.” (Good Father by Chris Tomlin)

Roles fluctuate. Physical selves change and fade. My true identity, the one rooted and grounded in the goodness of God the Father, remains true forever. Nothing anyone, including myself, does or says can change my true identity.

Scripture tells me a great deal about my true identity. I am…

My roles and my physical identity are not permanent. Not even my own name defines who I am. But my true identity never changes. It never fades and is not dependent on any other person on this earth.

My true identity gives me confidence. It makes me want to be brave. Grounding myself in this identity affects how I live out my roles and how well I take care of my physical self.

The identity given me by God determines my focus and shapes my everyday reality.

Anticipation

vacation-planning-1524450-1600x1200Pleasurable Anticipation

Anticipation can be pleasurable expectation or filled with apprehension. It involves contemplation and hope, and it serves to create a foresight or foretaste of future events. While anticipation can be positive or negative, let’s focus on the pleasurable side of anticipation today.

Just like memories allow reliving of events and the joy they brought, anticipation presents the opportunity for enjoying events even before they take place. Yet, too often, we get so caught up in the details of planning that we forget to enjoy the process. For anticipate to hold pleasure, we need to learn to enjoy the process.

When planning events gets in the way of the pleasurable anticipation, it’s time to step back. Maybe feeling uptight and anxious about an upcoming event means over-planning and considering every contingency have added unnecessary complexity and simplifying your approach is needed.

I’m certainly not suggesting a lack of planning. Anyone who knows me much at all knows I would never say such a thing. What I am saying is that I do know that failure to enjoy the process not only results in missing out on a lot of joy but also creates a lot of tension and stress.

For me, truly anticipating means not doing everything myself. When my family prepares for a vacation together — or any other event, really — the joy of the event multiplies. We get to enjoy planning the event, connecting during it, and reliving the memories for years afterward.

Involving others has truly allowed me to enjoy planning and thus enjoy anticipating many of life’s events. If only I’d have had this mindset before planning my wedding many years ago, before so many of my kids’ birthday parties and even during times spent planning for something as simple as a cookout with a few friends.

As I considered how my over-planning and worrying about “what ifs” use to constantly impede pleasurable anticipation, the Holy Spirit led me to also ask how anticipation exists in my relationship with the Lord. My discoveries revealed yet another area needing some pruning.

A Christian’s Anticipation

The Bible says Christians should anticipate the day of the Lord’s coming by choosing to live for him now.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage, I say and prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed (compensated) for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

It also tells us to praise God in our anticipation of what He will do because of what He has already done.

“It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation…” (1 Peter 1:3)

Unfortunately, my walk with the Lord has not always been one of pleasurable anticipation. Rather, it has been one of “hold me up, Lord,” “please fix this,” and “I can’t take it anymore.” While those are not bad pleas in and of themselves and the Lord wants us to cry out to Him in our need, they only just skim the surface of what having a relationship with Christ means.

That relationship doesn’t just mean leaning on Him for help in troubled and stressful times, but it also means soaring with Him in victory and anticipation of His fulfilled promises yet to come because of what He has already done through Christ.

No matter what happens this side of Heaven, we can expect greater things to come when we enter eternity. No matter how low the valley or high the mountaintop, a Christian’s future exists as one of pleasurable anticipation for greater things to come both in this life and in the next.

Living with this anticipation of the Lord should alter our daily lives because we know what God has done, can see what He’s doing, and have promises to hold on to that tell us what to anticipate from Him in the future.

DISCUSSION: Do you eagerly anticipate events such as vacations? Or, do you dread them because of all the work and planning involved? How can you learn to enjoy the process? Do you anticipate the Lord’s activity in your life? If not, how can you better enjoy the process He’s leading you through?

Believing is Seeing

Birthday 2Until the recent past, shopping existed as therapy and a way to for a least a little while forget about life’s struggles. I loved finding good deals and saving money on unplanned purchases. Loved the image I showed from being stylish, though I’m not sure how much others actually noticed.

For whatever reason, the feel of some new thing energized me and gave me a sort of high. A high I forgot and needed again as soon as the new became old.

I’m not sure when, but the same sort of fading of newness happened with my physical self too. I find myself wondering…

When did the physical weariness begin to rear its ugly head?

When did the groaning and sighing become so commonplace?

When did my desire to recuperate replace my desire to be active?

I’m not talking a negativity, really, but rather an increased awareness that feeling new and energized — like I used to in a new outfit — happens a lot less frequently in the physical sense now than it used to not too many years ago. My body simply doesn’t respond and renew physically like it did even 5 years ago. At the same time, my desire to focus there exists more for maintenance purposes now anyway.

When I read 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, I gain a better understanding of what’s likely happening. I’m becoming more aware of my earthly tent and its weaknesses. At times, I focus there and allow the number of my life as it increases toward finality to consume me. If I stay in that thinking, I get increasingly discouraged. But if I choose to dwell instead on God’s truth, I find tremendous encouragement once again. Specifically, I am renewed in my knowledge that…

I will have an eternal home in Heaven one day, one God Himself made.

The body I will have will be like wearing heavenly clothing, like putting on a new outfit but knowing the newness will never fade.

Not only did God prepare this eternity for me, He guarantees its reality through His Holy Spirit.

This reality — one more real than the physical one we live in now — not only encourages me, it gives me great confidence too. And this confidence…

Always exists even though I’m not yet in my real home.

Focuses on believing rather than seeing.

Provides motivation to always please the Lord.

The encouragement and confidence instilled by God’s truth in my heart through His Holy Spirit helps me turn my birthday focus from a melancholy perspective that feels overwhelmed by the current reality to one that aims to please God rather than self. One where the earthly weakness still exists but that matters less and less as eternal life draws increasingly near.

DISCUSSION: How does “believing is seeing” play out in your life?

Aging Gracefully

Birthday Confetti Email SalutationEvery year as my birthday nears, I struggle with aging. Actually, I continually battle the thought of aging but fixate on it more when I must actually add to the number that captures the reality.

Yeah, I know the “age is just a number” sayings, but I don’t buy them. To me, that constantly-increasing number reminds me of my mortality, and I find I must deliberately confront my thoughts in this area in order to not find myself consumed by what sometimes feels like futility.

Maybe I love this world too much. Maybe I’m too attached to the desires of my flesh. Or maybe I simply struggle with the wasted time of my past, now lost forever. Regardless, I know I need to, as my pastor said recently, live forward instead of backwards, and for me this means confronting these thoughts that could paralyze me if I let them.

tent

While I struggle with aging, I’m also acutely aware that the number placed on my age only involves my current dwelling or “tent” as Paul calls it (2 Corinthians 5:1-10). I know that the real me, my spirit, renews daily (2 Corinthians 4:16)… it doesn’t age. I hold dearly to my future promised with Christ in Heaven, and I know I must “not think only about things down here” but must “also set [my] sights on the realities of heaven” (Colossians 3:1-2).

At the same time, I can’t deny my desire to extend this tent-dwelling life as much as possible, to live a long, good life on this earth. I simply cannot escape the deep sense that this mortal life truly matters even amidst its fleetingness.

Since this life does matter, I want to age gracefully. I want to live fully in a way that pleases my Creator because I don’t believe He would give me this life if it didn’t matter much, if He didn’t have a specific purpose for both now and into eternity.

Do you have a similar struggle with aging and/or a desire to age gracefully?

In my goal to age gracefully, the focus topic for August on Struggle to Victory, I’m looking to what Scripture says to help me live in victory even within the struggle. In that, I will explore what the Bible teaches about living a long, good life (which is actually quite a lot), attempt to understand the truth that “physical training is of some value” (1 Timothy 4:8) and look at what it takes to finish well.

DISCUSSION: What are your thoughts on aging gracefully?

Sunday Reflections – Living a Spectacular Life

What sets you apart? What makes you stand out? Are you different from those around you?

As Christians, we should definitely stand out in the world. But what about as individuals within the church?

Too many Christians stop growing after salvation. Don’t get me wrong – I am certainly not saying that salvation is anything less than the most spectacular event in a Christian’s life. But the spectacular doesn’t have to stop at salvation.

A Christian can – and should – continue down the path of an increasingly spectacular life. For me, life with Jesus keeps getting better and better. Only by the Holy Spirit’s work in my life for growth is this happening.

How can a Christian continue experiencing the spectacular life that begins at salvation? Here’s what I’m discovering to be essential in my own growth as a Christ follower.

  1. Take ownership. You faith. Your sin. They are yours alone, and you alone will stand before God on day. Take responsibility now. (Romans 14:12)
  2. Avoid comparisons. God hates all sin. Comparisons will never negate the need for confession. (James 2:10)
  3. Protect from within. The condition of the heart is everything, because the attitude of the heart directs all that we do and say. Above all, protect your heart. (Proverbs 4:23)
  4. Draw near. The answer to every issue, every problem, every area of stress and worry is always more of Jesus. And as you draw closer to Him, He reciprocates and draws closer to you. (James 4:8)
  5. Fight distractions. A simple life only exists when distractions are continually and deliberately mitigated. And the simple life lived for Christ is nothing less than spectacular. (Hebrews 12:1)

Being a Christian involves far more than being saved. Again, please don’t think I am lessening salvation in any way. That is far from the truth. What I am saying is that as awesome as salvation is, God has even more spectacular things planned for those who not only make Him Savior but also Lord.

 Making Christ Lord means living a spectacular life – one changed by His unending mercy and grace.

“Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. He died for everyone so that those who receive this new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them. We have to stop evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life as begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

DISCUSSION: How does your life reflect the spectacular life that Christ died to give us?

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The Old Will Become New

Garage sales. Yard Sales. Rummage sales. Whatever you call them, they represent one person’s junk becoming another’s treasure.

We recently bought a new (i.e. gently used) vehicle. As we cleaned out the old vehicle, I remembered when it was new to us. Now, it will move on and become new for someone else, stained seats and all.

If you watch any of the trendy decorating shows on television (see HGTV for examples), the word “repurpose” comes up a lot. This refers to taking a household item and finding a new use for it.

These examples illustrate that we are surrounded with the old becoming new again, and we are active participants in that process.

Scripture talks about the old becoming new again in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. Through Christ, Christians have been “made new” and become “ambassadors for Christ.”

What are the characteristics of someone who has been “made new” for Christ?

  1. Controlled by the love of Christ. In the old life, the flesh controlled. In this new life, the love of Christ now motivates. With new motivation comes new attitudes, actions and words that please Him.
  2. Live to please Christ. Our motivations change from pleasing self to pleasing God. What we say and do and the way that we say and do them now focus on glorifying Him and not ourselves.
  3. No longer evaluate others and Christ through the world’s eyes. Instead of looking at Christ and other people from a worldly point of view, we can look at them through the eyes of Scripture. Only in this way can we see others with grace, mercy and hope and know that He is the source of those things.
  4. Have the task of reconciling people to Him. Since we are now new creations in Christ, we have the task of encouraging others toward being made new in Him too.
  5. Speak to others about the Gospel. Encouraging others toward being repurposed or made new requires telling them about the Gospel.

Being repurposed as a Christian does not mean just being changed into something else. It means literally being re-created. It means beginning a brand new life in Christ. It means all the past sins are gone and completely under the blood of Christ.

Being made new in Christ requires letting go of the old life and stepping into the new one He has created for us through His death and resurrection. All the old stuff from our past (that means our sins) cease to exist in His eyes.

Unfortunately, I sometimes become a hoarder who for some reason finds herself unable to part with pretty much anything. Her house becomes impassable from being packed with items collected over years and years of hoarding. My hoarding involves holding on to old attitudes, actions and words that don’t reflect my being a new creation in Christ.

Christ calls us to let go of that which entangles or weighs us down and to “throw off [the] old evil nature and former way of life” and to instead allow for a “spiritual renewal of thoughts and attitudes” that shows itself in our attitudes, actions and words (Ephesians 4:20-24). In other words, we can’t be hoarders of our old way of life. Once we become Christians, we must allow ourselves to be transformed into new people. In this process, we get to be a part of the greatest victory ever achieved.

DISCUSSION: Ephesians 4:25-32 gives some very specific suggestions for transforming our old selves into new creatures. What suggestions can you begin to apply today?

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