Identity Crisis

Who are you? Do you really know? We live in a world where kids are growing up trying to figure out who they are and a culture that tells them a ton of different things. Parents trying to live out the dreams that they had for themselves are pushed on to their children.

Confusion is rampant. It is to the point that boys are questioning if they are even boys. Girls the same. It is so heartbreaking.

That is really just the tip of the iceberg. People are struggling with self-worth, depression and anxiety at alarming rates.

The hope – the answer – is in possession of those that know Christ. The Church has the answer. The answer is Jesus Christ and His saving power. Instead of getting angry and acting out at the people who are going through this, let’s get angry and act out at the enemy who has blinded their eyes to the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

So Let’s fight the spiritual battle and take the gospel to those that are confused.

That is our mandate as the church. Let’s not be surprised when lost people act like lost people. Let’s love them with the love of Christ and scream the truth at the top of our lungs. The Spirit can break the spell of darkness and bring them into the light. He did it for us after all.

So, yes, it is a tragedy that there are so many lost people who don’t know Christ who are struggling with their identity. BUT it is an equal or perhaps greater tragedy for those that DO KNOW CHRIST and claim to follow Him, that claim to be saved by Him – and yet they struggle with their/our identity.

The church is full of people who call themselves CHRISTians but completely – without realizing it – often identify as something else. Let me give you an example.

Have you ever said, “I’m just a worrier.”? You have just identified yourself as something that you are not supposed to be. What about this one, “I’m not a gossip, I just speak the truth.”? Well, the truth is you are probably a gossip.

Followers of Jesus often identify as anything but a follower of Jesus. Oh, we might say it with our words, but our lives speak louder.

We are worriers.

We are control freaks.

We are fearful.

We are depressed.

We are workaholics.

We are hotheads.

We – in our minds – are a lot of things, but we allow those things to crowd out the FACT that we are IN CHRIST.

Now, the truth is, we still live in this world and we still struggle in this flesh we live in, so – yes – we aren’t going to always identify with Christ in our minds. Of course we will struggle with worry. But there is an answer for that. Yes, we will struggle with control. There is an answer for that. Fear is a real thing. Depression can’t be minimized and should be taken seriously.

BUT ULTIMATELY SO MANY OF THESE THINGS STEM FROM THE FACT THAT WE HAVE FORGOTTEN WHOSE WE ARE AND WHO WE ARE BECAUSE OF WHOSE WE ARE!

So let me take a moment and remind you as I remind myself.

First if you are in Christ…

YOU ARE A SAINT! I preached on this a couple of weeks ago. Saints aren’t some super-spiritual people doing super-spiritual things. The simple fact that you have placed your faith in Christ Jesus is enough to qualify you to be a saint.

Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

YOU ARE SAVED! You are saved from death. You are saved from a miserable life of sin. You are saved TO heaven. You are saved to a life of purpose. You are saved to righteousness.

Romans 10:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED.

YOU ARE RECONCILED! You have been made right with God. You were completely opposed to God and the things of God, but because of salvation you are now reconciled to Him.

Romans 5:10 For if, while we were God’s ENEMIES, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through this life!

YOU ARE FORGIVEN! Because of the cross of Jesus and the blood he shed on that cross, you are forgiven – past, present and future. He forgives you and chooses to never remember your sin again. He won’t bring it up – so stop bringing it up to yourself!

Psalm 103:11-12 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

YOU ARE A NEW PERSON! The moment you accepted Christ and began to follow Him, you became a new creation. You are not what you once were. You are headed in a new direction. You have new purpose. It is all from and for JESUS!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away and the new things have come!

YOU ARE ADOPTED! What Jesus did on the cross made it possible for us to become sons and daughters of the king. The scripture says that we can now call God “Abba” which translates “Daddy.” Oh, and once you are adopted you will never be “unadopted.”

Romans 8:15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

YOU ARE AN HEIR! Because you are adopted into the family of God and are now one of His children, you have the right to all that is His! You now have an inheritance that will never fade away. We share with Christ in this life – sometimes the good and sometimes the difficult -remembering that we also share in His future glory!

Romans 8:17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

YOU ARE VICTORIOUS! Isn’t this really the story of Easter? Jesus was victorious over sin, death, the grave and because we are in Him, we share in that victory! We now have the power of the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living in us which means that we have the power within us to overcome daily temptations. We don’t have to fear death because we are already victorious over it in Him.

John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!

Honestly the list goes on and on. You are so much in Christ. So, as believers, start living it!! Remember WHO YOU ARE. Remember WHO GOD SAYS YOU ARE. Remember WHOSE YOU ARE!

LIVE ON PURPOSE!

What Do We Expect?

I will admit right off the bat that when this writing began to formulate in my mind it began as a scathing, self-righteous blog about the evil of the world and the imbalance in culture and how we as Christians are in the minority and the values that we hold dear are slowly being swept away in favor of blatantly perverse sexuality, atheistic/pantheistic views of god and a nation that has taken “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to an unintended level.

Let me give you some background. I did not watch the Grammys. (I used to love watching but quit watching years ago for various reasons.). Honestly, I didn’t even know the Grammys were happening. But I read about it yesterday and was shocked to find that the act that “stole the show” was a sexually explicit song accompanied by sexually explicit choreography that was touted as showing what strong women really look like.

It seems so backward to me, how, during “Women’s History Month” a song like that could be touted as appropriate much less a picture of strong women. This is not what I want for my daughter – my granddaughters. I want them to be strong women, but not degrade themselves and others to prove that is what they are.

Anyway, let me get back to it because I feel that original intent coming back to the front…

So I was praying about it this morning. The backward views our culture has. The desire to be respected yet seemingly disrespecting yourself. The blatant sexual overtones. The morally rotten culture. As I was praying I suddenly realized it is so easy for me to forget that those people in culture that are propagating this agenda – that is all they know. They are lost without Christ.

They need Jesus. Jesus brings real worth and self-confidence. Jesus brings healing to hurts. Jesus shows what true strength is. Jesus loves them exactly like they are, but loves them so much He doesn’t want to leave them like they are.

Then God gently spoke to me, not audibly but certainly loud enough for me to hear, if you know what I mean. “Kevin, why don’t you pray for those people? They are lost and they don’t know Me and how will they unless people like you – my people share with them?”

Why in the world should I be surprised when lost people act like lost people? I was once lost without Christ and my life didn’t make sense either. I thought wrong was right if it felt good to me. This is the same thing that is going on in our culture today. Truthfully, what I should be surprised at is a church (people), who claim the name of Christ and have been saved by grace through faith, that don’t see the need to share Jesus with world but instead just gripe and complain about how bad the world is becoming. Oh how we have forgotten…

SO…

The prayer is not, “God, change the culture.” The culture from the BEGINNING as been bent toward sin, death and self-destruction. Nothing has changed since Genesis. Scripture tells us that this is the way of the world and we should not be surprised by it even when it gets worse. (Romans 5:12, Ephesians 6:12, Galatians 1:4)

The prayer is, “God change me. Give me a passion to tell a world of lost people about the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Help me to remember what it was like to be dead in my sin so that I don’t write someone off as hopeless in theirs.”

My pastor shared this verse with our staff yesterday morning and the words came back around to my mind and heart last night as I was contemplating this. They are the words of Paul written about two groups of people. Those who have not heard and beleived and those who had.

Romans 10:14-15 “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? 15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

The world needs to hear. People are lost.

The culture WILL NOT get better without Jesus in it.

The church has the responsibility to make that happen.

How will they know unless we tell them?

So who have you told about Jesus lately? That is the only way to win the world! That is our purpose. Let’s live it.

Live on Purpose

Praying on Purpose

Prayer. Communicating with God. Talking with the Creator. Prayer. Conversing with OUR FATHER.

I have 2 granddaughters (and this was true of my 2 kids as well) and some of the greatest time that I have with “my girls” is for them to climb up in my lap and let me hold them and listen to them talk.

Annabelle Rose and Aurora Reese
my beautiful granddaughters!

For us as followers of Christ, I think that is the best picture of prayer that we really have.

Romans 8:14 -15 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

“Abba” is the Aramaic term of endearment.  It’s our equivalent of “Daddy.”  My kids and grandkids have a privileged position with me. They have access to my assets, to my wisdom, to my home, to my time. I will use whatever I have to help them in any way that I can.

THINK ABOUT WHAT THAT MEANS WHEN YOU CONSIDER THE SPECIAL FAVOR OF GOD ON HIS KIDS!

So when is the last time you truly climbed up in the lap of God and talked with your Abba, your “Daddy?”

There are so many things that fight for my attention and take my focus instead. What about you? I have begun to wonder if this is why worry and anxiety are so prevalent among us as God’s children. Could it be that we simply aren’t spending enough time with Him?

At the end of Matthew 6, Jesus is talking extensively about worry and I think sometimes when we read it, we miss something. Traditionally that part of the teaching starts in v 25 but I think we have to back up to v 24 to get some perspective.

Matthew 6:24. “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

No one can serve two masters, yet we try to do that every day of our lives. Jesus says we can’t serve God and money but I think that can be anything.

We can’t serve God and money.

We can’t serve God and goals.

We can’t serve God and a job.

We can’t serve God and a career.

We can’t serve God and our family.

Now this doesn’t mean we won’t have those things as part of our lives but we can’t be adequate in those things until we put them in their proper place.

There will always be “another master” competing for our hearts.

Then in verse 25 Jesus opens with this statement… “THAT IS WHY I TELL YOU NOT TO WORRY…”

You see what we worry about is really indicative of what is our master.

So often we become consumed with what is going to take place tomorrow that we become mastered by it today.

Matthew 6:27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

In other words Jesus is asking us, “Can you – by obsessing over what you have no control over – influence what you have no control over?”

Oh, we like to think we can control tomorrow BUT nothing could be further from the truth. So what is this worrying business really about? Jesus tells us down in v30.

Matthew 6:30 “…Why do you have so LITTLE FAITH?”

In other words, GOD CAN HANDLE TOMORROW!

He says “so don’t worry about these things…” Then Jesus says something in v32 that should put it all in perspective.

Matthew 6:32 “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.

So when we worry about tomorrow as followers of Jesus, we are essentially living like an atheist. Are we letting worry dominate our thoughts? We miss the end of the verse that says OUR FATHER KNOWS ALL OUR NEEDS!

He then goes on to say SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD… That word “seek” is the same one in Greek he used in v32. So we are to let the kingdom of God and his righteousness DOMINATE our thoughts!

If you are still reading, you might be wondering what all this has to do with prayer. After all the title of the blog is Pray on Purpose not how not to worry or something else. Well here is the kicker to all of this “2-master” – worry – faith – kingdom of God stuff. IT ALL STARTS WITH PRAYER.

You see before Jesus ever taught on this, He taught his disciples how to pray.

Matthew 6:6 WHEN YOU PRAY…

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS IF WE DON’T PRAY!

We have to pray because we are God’s children.

We have to pray because prayer establishes God as Master.

We have to pray to keep worry and tomorrow from becoming our master.

And then he offers what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”

This prayer is a model of how we should pray to establish our Father as our Master!

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME…When we come to our Father, what else could be the response except for worship?

YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE…God, you are FIRST and I am a distant second so since that is the case let your will be done in my life so that I can impact the kingdom!

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD…This is NOT a “blessing” over a meal. This is a prayer of dependence. “God, everything I have is completely dependent on You!”

FORGIVE US AS WE FORGIVE OTHERS…Help me to do for others what you did for me through Jesus!

LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION… “I am weak and vulnerable so I need your protection from myself, my pride, my doubt…”

FOR YOURS IS THE KINGDOM AND THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER…”God, my life is ALL ABOUT YOU! It is Your story for Your glory!”

God has convicted me as you might can tell. My prayers are more about getting. Getting stuff. Getting answers. Getting direction. All of which are good but remember God our Father already knows what we need! And He is a good Father!

So in reality prayer is less about getting stuff and more about giving myself.

Pray early and often. Pray to establish your Master or life will master you!

Live (and pray) on purpose!

What Do You See When You See People?

Hate. Vitriol. Opposition. War.

These are the words that come to mind when I think about how the climate of our world has been these days.

I see it in politics. I see it on the news outlets. I even see it bleed over into sports. The saddest thing about this is when it infiltrates the church.

There is no place for hate for people from those that call themselves believers. Those that don’t consider themselves Christ-followers – the expectation is much lower. BUT that changes when we come to Christ.

We have to be better. We can’t live in hate. Our mission demands more. Jesus modeled better. The Word teaches us differently.

When everything is so volatile, how in the world do we navigate with love? How do we keep the mission at the forefront of our mind and attitude?

REMEMBER PEOPLE ARE NOT THE ENEMY. Paul reminded the Ephesians of this in

Ephesians 6:12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

If you back up a verse (follow the link above) and you will see that Paul is warning us against the tactics of the Devil. That is the battle we are fighting. Satan wants to get us focusing on the horizontal and assigning hate towards others, when in reality, in his subtle ways, he is using those people and situations in front of us to keep us from seeing the truth of the matter.

REMEMBER THAT PEOPLE ARE IMAGE BEARERS OF GOD. Every single person that has ever walked the face of this earth was made in the image of God. Genesis reminds us that God made male and female in His image. (Genesis 1:27) So no matter who you are looking at – no matter who angers you – remember that they are made in the image of God. They bear His image and He desires something for each of them.

REMEMBER THAT GOD WANTS ALL TO KNOW HIM. Not everyone realizes yet the reason they were created. They don’t know Jesus personally. But God loved them so much that He sent His Son to die for them so they might have eternal life! Peter writes…

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

REMEMBER WE ARE THE WAY THEY WILL KNOW HIM. Now this is what could be a long and involved point, but let me just say it in a couple of ways. We must show and reflect God’s love because we have been changed by His love. We know what it means to be forgiven. We know what it means to have abundant life. We know that the love of God changes everything.

So instead of trying to change people – love people. Let His love change them. Instead of hating them. Love them the way He loves them. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to love how they are or even how they treat you. But remember our Jesus when He was on the cross actually praying for those who had put Him there. That is what we are striving for.

That is the love that will truly change the world. Not to mention that OUR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER AS BELIEVERS will help others see Jesus. So the church is no place for us to hate. There is simply no room.

Living on purpose will require us to see people the way Jesus saw people. The way God sees His creations.

So love hard. Love well.

Live on Purpose.

Get Back At It!

You ever feel like your walk with Christ is 2 steps forward and 3 steps back? That the road is way harder than it should be? Take heart. You are not alone. I would venture to say that most of us who are on this journey – who are followers of Christ – are on the same unsteady road.

Today, I just want to encourage you. Keep at it. Keep growing. Don’t get frustrated. I know that is easier said than done, but you are not alone.

There are a couple of things that might make this easier or least more encouraging that I would like to challenge you with.

REMEMBER YOUR SALVATION. The enemy will do his best to try to get you to doubt the moment you were saved by grace. Don’t let him win. Remember the power of grace in that moment that sought you out and gave you the very thing you didn’t deserve. Righteousness of Christ. Forgiveness. Eternal life. Access to the Father. That moment when God declared you to be righteousness because of grace is called JUSTIFICATION.

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

You now have the POSITION of righteousness that can’t be taken away. You can’t do anything to earn it so you can’t do anything to lose it. God said it and that settles it.

REMEMBER THE POWER OF GRACE. That grace that saved you has the power to cover all the sin you did and all the sin you ever will do. Don’t discount that power. It is alive and active in your life. Your encounter with grace is not a one time event. It is a daily occurrence. Thank God.

John said in John 1:16 that “we have all received grace after grace from His (Christ) fullness.”

After we have received this positional standing in Christ by grace, God then begins the work of transforming our character into the character of Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. It is not about keeping the Law. We are free from that. It is about becoming like Jesus. It is about making an impact for the kingdom. It is about living on purpose! This is behavioral righteousness that we call sanctification.

REMEMBER IT IS A PROCESS. Sanctification is a process. Salvation happens immediately. We are forgiven and made righteous. Sanctification, though, is the work of our entire life. We constantly struggle with it. And remember ANY process is hard.

Think about it like this…My wedding day was July 15, 1995. What a day it was. On that Saturday afternoon, Nichole and I said some words like “I do” and we spoke vows and at the end of the ceremony the preacher said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” So I walked into that church a single man and left a husband. I was 100% a husband even though I really knew very little about being a husband. Now that was 25 and 1/2 years ago. I look a little more like a husband now than I did then. I learned some things quicker than others. Don’t mix colors and whites. Yikes. Other things, though, like being patient and less selfish are still an ongoing process. I have no doubt it will be lifelong to still learn and grow.

Your life as a follower of Christ very much mirrors this idea on a much grander scale. At salvation you were 100% made righteous. But since that moment – that day – you are on a journey to grow and learn and be more like Jesus.

So be on purpose. Be disciplined. Be active on the journey. Get in the Word. Attend a Bible-teaching church. Pray. Pursue the fruit of the Spirit. Disciple others. Share Christ.

BUT be patient with yourself. You will not be perfect. You will have days that you don’t or even don’t WANT to pursue. It is ok. Just keep grace in your mind and keep Jesus as your goal and get back at it.

Philippians 3:14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

Live on Purpose!