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A Crisis of Identity

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Isaiah 43:1-9 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
It is marked in each Bible I possess… I hold these words, His promises, in my heart. I recite them to myself on hard days when I get tangled up in all of the labels and the expectations this insane world strap onto my heart and plant in my mind.
In complete transparency, over the last 5 months I have battled with an irrational desire to measure up, constantly comparing myself to others, and seeing myself as less than others around me.
It has been grueling. I have done this at church, at school, and even in my home. It has created anxiety issues and has robbed me of joy and peace. The enemy has had a field day in my heart and mind because I ALLOWED it!

I hate feeling as if I am constantly competing with others.

I. HATE. IT.

In truth when I feel this pressure, I usually pull in and hide. I quit…
This type of competition steals my confidence and wrecks my ability to create.

It’s weird, isn’t it?

We let all sorts of people (and who knows what labels) define us. We tell ourselves that our lives will be perfect if we can just jump through “this hoop” or be like someone or follow someone’s else advice because they seem to have it all together. We allow social media and Pinterest and the opinions of others to mold and manipulate our fragile hearts and minds.
We listen to the lies, and we hide other people’s criticism in our hearts and play them on repeat when we’re alone. We so desperately want to be known or remembered for something that we’ll sometimes settle for being known for anything.
And when we do that, we chip away at our true identity, which has ONLY ever been – and will ONLY ever be – in Him.

In Christ.

I am so grateful that Jesus looks at all the words, the labels, and names we call ourselves – the things that we think will make us known – (and praise Him…) He just shakes His head…

He says… “Nope. No ma’am… Here’s what really and truly matters, darlin’!

YOU. ARE. MINE. ❤️

I want you to remind yourself of that today.

You. Are. His.

I. Am. His.

No one else gets to define you. No one else gets to tell you who you are.
And because of that, you will never find true and lasting peace in a title, in a role, or in an identity.

You should absolutely do your best at whatever you undertake.

Colossians 3:23 is pretty clear about that. “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.”

But your work, or another person’s evaluation of it – has NO bearing on your value as a person.

Just in case you have forgotten, I want to remind you of something that will shatter your heart and make your life so much sweeter:
  • The Lord established and sealed your value before the foundation of time.
  • He created you with GREAT intention.
  • He loves you more than you could ever imagine,
  • And at the end of the day … HIS OPINION is the ONLY ONE that matters.
So remember:
  • You are a deeply loved child of God.
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • AND You are precious in His sight.

THAT, sweet one, is what defines you.. who defines you!

🎵Sing with me…

“JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW…
FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO…
“WEARY” ONES TO HIM BELONG.
” I AM WEAK”… BUT HE IS STRONG…
YES, JESUS LOVES ME…
YES, JESUS LOVES ME.
YES, JESUS LOVES ME…
FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.”

Note to my 2020 self…

Jesus defines me. I don’t have to measure up or keep up with anyone else. I am uniquely wired and gifted for the task He has for me. That’s enough.
Jesus is enough… He’s my all.

December 24th – Luke 2:6-21

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Photo by Gareth Harper.

Welcome Lord Jesus…
Into the darkness of that dark stable, a child is born. Into the darkness of the world, a light shines.
From the knotty gnarled stump of Jesse, a shoot springs up.
The waiting is over. Hope is here. This is the olive branch in the beak of the Noah’s dove. This is our confirmation that all is not lost.
Today, we hear the good news!
Today, we kneel at the manger.
Today, we glorify and praise God for all we have seen and heard!
Welcome Lord Jesus!
I’m so grateful and thrilled you willingly shattered the darkness of the world to bring your light and life. The life you bring promises more than this world could ever imagine.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!

December 23rd – Luke 2:1-5

 

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The Christmas Journey

Today people around us are preparing for Christmas travels. Maybe some have already reached their destinations. Some may be loading precious cargo and journeying today.
As I write this, my babies are traveling. One son is driving with his family to Tennessee, and one son is flying home from Colorado. Packing began yesterday… preparations long before that.
I recently read that the Christmas story is a destination story.
I don’t know that I had thought about that before, but it is.
Advent season is a journey.
The story of Christmas is about a journey, a two-fold journey.
Yes, it’s the story of Joseph and Mary making their way to Bethlehem, a hard journey filled with the discomfort of late pregnancy and anxiety about an unknown future. A journey they made out of civil obedience, anticipation growing with each passing mile.
More importantly, Christmas is the destination story of Jesus Christ, Immanuel…God With Us.
It’s the story of the willingness of the One who was God Almighty to leave the splendor of heaven, to take on human frailty with all of its limitations and endure the realities of living in a horribly broken world.
A journey He made out of love… a consuming…ridiculously magnificent perfect love.
This Advent season we have journeyed together through Old Testament passages. The road over the last month has been bumpy and hard for so many.
Although I pray our final destinations are the same, our journeys are not over with the dawning of Christmas day. We each continue on our own narrow rocky path, but what we have shared over the past days and weeks hopefully makes us stronger as we continue on toward our sweet destination.
Jesus made earth his final destination so that our final destination would be with him in the most wonderful place forever and ever.
Lord Jesus,
Thank you. Thank you for leaving what was your right, to guarantee for me a place that is NOT my right but a gift from your precious hands.
“Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care
And take us for Heaven to live with thee there.”
Amen

December 22nd – Matthew 1:18-25

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Yes.

When we read the Christmas story, humble Joseph is not a central character by many accounts.
But…
If we prayerfully sit with this passage of Scripture,
  • we see what a man of honor looks like.
  • We see what a godly man looks like.
  • We see what obedience looks like.
“BEING A RIGHTEOUS MAN AND UNWILLING TO EXPOSE HER TO PUBLIC DISGRACE, HE PLANNED TO DISMISS HER QUIETLY.” MATTHEW 1:19
Mary’s extramarital pregnancy was complicated…
Jewish civil law was very clear about the process of divorce during engagements.
The pregnancy tarnished both of their reputations regardless of how he handled it.
Then an angel of the LORD appears in a dream, and tells Joseph to take his righteousness a step further by following through with the engagement and marrying young Mary.
  • Knowing Mary’s pregnancy tainted her with sin…
  • Knowing it would taint his reputation as well…
  • Knowing their marriage would long be whispered about and their families would be impacted by the public humiliation…
“JOSEPH, SON OF DAVID, DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TAKE MARY AS YOUR WIFE, FOR THE CHILD CONCEIVED IN HER IS FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT. SHE WILL BEAR A SON AND YOU WILL CALL HIS NAME JESUS FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.” MATTHEW 1: 20-21
But Joseph, being the righteous man God chose for the task, was obedient.
  • He said yes…
  • He said yes to the public disgrace.
  • He said yes to the questioning stares and whispers.
  • He said to this holy task…
Embracing and raising Jesus… the Savior…
He didn’t allow fear to overrule him.
Instead, he let compassion and love motivate him and his decision.
By being willing to unite himself to Mary, he was opening himself to a wonderful role in the story.
Rather than being the one who left… the one who quit… the one who walked away to redeem public opinion…
  • He said yes to God.
  • He said yes to being the earthly father to the Savior of the world…
  • He said yes to teaching the Creator of the world how to use his human hands to fashion tools and simple furniture.
  • He said yes to holding the crying baby who would one day heal the broken hearted, the blind, and the deaf.
  • He said yes.
How can we say yes to him today?
How might we set aside our fears and follow Him?
How might we take our righteousness a step further and embrace the risk of following fast and hard after the Heavenly Father’s lead?
God,
You so marvelously invited Joseph into your story. Thank you for the example he sets for us. Where in my life, in my heart, am I resisting to follow you in obedience because I am worried about how people will see me? Is there some good I am doing that I could take it up to the next level of radical obedience?
Give me courage to say yes to you.
Amen

December 21 – Luke 1:26-38

 

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Photo by Chaz McGregor.

When Holy Shatters the Ordinary

“How can this be?”

Her soft words were spoken amidst a tsunami of emotions. Confusion, fear…

The ordinariness of her day was shattered by the arrival of an angel. He broke into her day, changing the character of not just that moment but her life…of every life. The lives of everyone who came and the ones that would come after were changed in that one moment.

That holy moment of angelic tidings…

 

That moment of ancient promise fulfilled…

 

Mary’s life would not be ordinary anymore.

“How can this be?” Though she had never been with a man, she would conceive and give birth to a baby in a way no other woman had or has since.

 

There would be ordinary moments, but those moments were pierced with the knowledge that her son Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God Most High.

 

This Jesus… He is the One whose name “is above every other name,” and one day, “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under earth – and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

 

This Jesus came into the womb of a young girl taking on flesh and living among us, to save us before we even knew we needed saving.

 

He has come and will come again to save us, once for all, by His work on the cross. By His spirit, He is near, and one day He will return shattering all heartache and brokenness, making all things new.

 

He knows…

our brokenness, our sin, and our fickle hearts.

 

And yet He chose to come and live among us because He loves us.

 

Even in our sin and our filth, Jesus loved, pursued, and saved us for the joy set before Him.

 

It wasn’t just the angel who broke through the ordinary with a holy visit; it was God Himself shattering the common, infusing all of history with His very presence – His redemptive love…

 

If we know this and believe this then…

 

Every moment is pierced with Jesus, and

 

Nothing is ordinary anymore.

 

Most High God,

You have done this marvelous thing. You entered into history as a human and redeemed me as your own. You have shattered all that this world has to offer with the offering of you, of salvation. Tender my days with the knowledge that my moments are holy.

Help me to use my moments for your glory…

No, Father, nothing is ordinary anymore.

 

Amen

 

December 20th – Matthew 3:1-6

 

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Photo by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash

A Peculiar Treasure

John the Baptist was a strange bird… a peculiar treasure indeed.

  • · Miracle baby to aging parents
  • · Lived and preached in the wilderness
  • · Wore camel-hair clothes
  • · Are locusts and honey

 

In my mind, he was probably a guy who didn’t honor personal space.

Opinionated? Yep.
Loud and brash? Uh-huh
Rubbed people the wrong way, confrontational???
Most definitely.

But he was called to be that way.

His message to the people was an urgent wake-up call. The Promised One…the long-awaited Messiah would be coming soon.
Judgment and redemption was on the way.
John the Baptist called out to the people of Israel, “Repent!”
John spoke of repentance as a radical turning from sin. Prophecy fulfilled. Isaiah 40:3-5 promised “A voice is calling, clearing the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”
He had the task of getting the people ready for Messiah’s arrival. John prepared the way for Jesus by preparing others to welcome Him. The years of waiting made the people nearly forget about God’s promise to send a Savior, someone who would redeem the people from their lives of sin, oppression, and misery.

JOHN WAS THERE TO REFRESH THEIR MEMORY.  THE STORY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST REFRESHES OUR MEMORY.

You might have forgotten, but God has not. A Savior is on the way…
What good is a Savior to someone who doesn’t know they are dying.
If I don’t know I’m dirty, I don’t crave cleansing.
If I don’t know I’m sick, then how will I know I need a doctor.
The people confessed their sins and were washed clean.

How are we preparing the way of the LORD today?

John’s cry in the wilderness should be our cry today.
Run to Jesus…
Let’s be honest about our sin-sick souls.
Let’s be real about our need for a Savior.
I can answer this call to repent. In this Advent season, I am issued an invitation to exhale and honestly, humbly agree with God that I am not faithful to Him much like the people of Israel in John’s day.
None of us are, in our own strength.
We do not follow His ways. We devote ourselves to our attempts at being in control of our own little kingdoms.
The Kingdom of Heaven put on flesh to come near to us. Jesus Messiah is the One who washes away the dirt and decay of our sin, and He alone makes us clean.
JESUS,
POINT OUT THE PLACES IN ME THAT ARE A MESS, THE PLACES THAT ARE MAKING IT HARD FOR ME TO ENCOUNTER YOU. I CONFESS MY SINS TO YOU. MAKE ME CLEAN. PREPARE MY HEART FOR TO WELCOME YOU.
AMEN

December 19th – Luke 1:5-25

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Photo by Mostafa Meraji.

The Question of Silence

This particular passage of Scripture provided interesting discussion last week.
You see, my heart is tender to Zechariah. He doesn’t outright reject the angel’s message, after all. He doesn’t laugh the way Sarah does when she overhears that she will bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:12). He just asks how he can be sure the angel is telling the truth.
It’s a fair question. Bear in mind, there  had been 400 years of silence…
The promise made by the angel would fulfill the deepest desire of Zechariah’s heart… To him, the message was too good to be true. The hope of joy was too painful to let in.
What Zechariah knew of God’s character, even as a priest, was not enough to convince him.
I am guilty…
Are we not tempted to question whether God’s promises line up more with HIS character or OUR circumstances?
If God’s promise depends on His faithfulness alone, then Zechariah and Elizabeth are on the brink of a wild kind of hope and joy that will shatter their imaginations.
What is the difference between believing that God’s promise depends on us or on Him? My fragile fickle faith or His goodness, His faithfulness, His proven character?
The temptation of crippling fear or the thrill of hope in the face of uncertainty?
The punishment for Zechariah’s unbelief/his questioning was muteness, and yet, God still showed His power in him as well as in Elizabeth.
And maybe…just maybe… what we consider a punishment God used as a gift… Maybe the season of quiet was a time to dwell of the goodness of God… to ponder His character…
Our doubt cannot stop God from being good to us, and it definitely WILL NOT thwart His perfect plans.

That is the kind of God my God is…

Even John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was the Messiah, (Luke 7:19) and Jesus honored his question. He reminded John that in order to determine truth he needed to look at the fulfilled prophecies which pointed to God’s character, rather than focusing on his current circumstances.
Bless precious Elizabeth… In contrast to Zechariah, she responded to this beautifully impossible news with a heart bursting with gratitude…
Whether we respond as Elizabeth or as Zechariah, our God keeps His promises. Even when we are too overwhelmed by our circumstances to believe… He keeps His promises.
Know Him… Know His unwavering character…
This Advent, God offers JOY to us…Hope has come…
Salvation is here!
In our silence and waiting, God is birthing joy…eternally…in us.
Bring Him your questions. Carve out time and space to ponder His goodness and His character.
Lord,
Thank you! In the midst of my doubts and fragile faith, You are mighty. Speak… I am listening. Help me to quiet my buzzing thoughts and the chaos of my days. What do you want me to hear today? Tender my heart to You…
Amen
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