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Identity Crisis

1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭KJV – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”‭‭‬‬

I have an exercise for you today – get out a piece of paper and write “I AM” on the top of it. Then below that, I want you to write words that describe you – character traits, career choices, hobbies – anything and everything that describe you. Then, I want you to cross out all the words that describe your personality, your career, your hobbies and anything else that describes you. Now, I know that you are thinking, “Good grief Melissa, that was dumb to write it all down and then cross it all out.”

Here is the point –

We tend to think of ourself in certain ways. We see ourself as defined by words that man has made up to describe things and actions. But is that really who you are? Are you really nice? If I had to guess, if you’re like me, not all the time. Are you really hard-working? If you’re like me, laziness creeps into your life sometimes. You see, the words that we describe ourself with are temporary and unreliable. In reality, they limit us. They put us in a box or in a column that restricts who we can truly be. 

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, oh dear, you are so much more than adjectives on a page. You have been created and designed for a special purpose that it is your duty to fulfill in this life we live on a daily basis. Adjectives on a page don’t begin to describe the beauty and purpose that God has in store for you.

BUT, you have to make a choice. You see, you can see yourself as the world sees you all day long. Or, you can see yourself in the Light of Heaven and find freedom. 

Those adjectives you used to describe yourself are bars around you that keep you from reaching your full potential. The world will tell you – “It’s your life. Live it how you want to live it.” Oh, that may sound like freedom and options and all sorts of wonderful things, but in reality, when you are in control of your life and you are trying to figure out how to live it, things get messy and restrictive. 

But when you let Jesus drive your life, when you let Him describe who you are and what He wants you to do and how He wants you to do it, things begin to loosen up. You are no longer bound by the limits the world places on you. You are allowed to dream big and hope fully. And you can do this because you don’t have to worry about how things are going to work out. You know that when Jesus is in control that everything works out in His time and according to His will. You just have to follow and not stray onto your own path. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately trying to tell me how to be the best version of myself and how to improve my quality of life and so on. But the one thing that all of these “professionals” have failed to mention is the importance of Christ in my daily life. He is the One who makes every little thing I do worthwhile. 

So, today is Thursday. The weekend is just around the corner. Take some time to think about how you see yourself. And then, ask Jesus how He sees you. And then, make His perspective, your perspective. When you realize that your identity isn’t found in the limits of the world, you’re scope opens up in a whole new way. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭KJV)

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Gifts

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬ – “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
This last weekend, my daughter was in a school performance of “The Little Mermaid”. There were so many talents displayed – song, dance, prop prep, costumes, sound management, makeup, acting – just to name a few.

And these kids had worked hard. They had been practicing for weeks and weeks to prepare for these few nights in April. They had long rehersals, extra time at home and an occasional Saturday meeting. There were lines to memorize. Dances to learn. Props to prepare. Costumes to fit to people. Seriously…hard work.

They presented this hard work beautifully. These young people are incredibly talented. They are hard working and dedicated to the task at hand. I have seen this over and over again in the last 3 years that my daughter has participated in the spring play. There may have been a year that they weren’t too excited to present the play, but they still gave it their all and didn’t quit until the curtain went down on the last night. 

They were all using their gifts. 

When we think of gifts, we think of big things like presenting God’s Word or teaching or being a missionary or singing in services. But our gifts can come in many shapes and sizes. Some are obvious while others are inconspicuous. But regardless of the attention they receive (or don’t receive), they are important. And we must use them – daily. 

For example – I am a planner and an organizer. I like to know what is coming, when it will get here and how I will handle it. I plan out lunch and dinner every day. I have the menu listed in my kitchen for everyone to see. I do this to serve my family and to provide a sense of stability to our day – things may be crazy today but at least I know what is for dinner. Crazy, I know, but this is how my brain works. Not everyone can plan things. For me, this is a gift. 

You see, I think that we overlook little details like planning and chalk them up to just being able to do things like that. But I choose to see it as a gift that I can give my family. Occasionally, I will let that gift seep over into other areas of my life. I have been known to plan events at church. I create treatment plans for my patients all the time. I help plan vacations for the family.  I organize the house on (what seems like) a daily basis. 

But in all these instances, I am serving someone. That’s the part I think we miss – the reason behind what we are doing. Yes, I do it to make my life feel easier but the main purpose is serving. And in serving, I am helping the people around me. I am showing them Christ in my life. 

I don’t know what gift(s) God has given you. I don’t know if they are flashy or private, obvious or inconspicuous but I do know that your gift(s) are important and God means for you to use them to bring Him honor and glory. I know that He is disappointed when you don’t use them. I know that He gave them to you for a reason. And I do know that you and I both need to get out there and use them more and more. You never know when His gift He has bestowed upon you might lead someone to the greatest Gift anyone could receive – salvation through Jesus Christ. 

Learning

Proverbs 2:10-17 – “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.”

I was spending some time with my nephew last night. We were learning about animals and their habits and behaviors. One fact that we learned was that a wildebeast typically have their babies at night. The babies are expected to be able to run 15 minutes after they are born. If they can’t run, the mother leaves them behind. My nephew loves animals and all sorts of facts. He is like a little sponge. He looked up at me after hearing this and said, “Aunt Melissa, there are some facts that I don’t like to know. That makes me sad.”

They say “Knowledge is power.” And in some ways, I guess they are correct. Knowledge helps you to understand the world around you. It can guide you and show the path of righteousness, if you look for it. It can show you what people truly desire. It can help you to identify when someone is trying to lead you away from what you know to be right. 

When accompanied by the Holy Spirit, knowledge can help you see your need for a Savior. 

But sometimes, we pick up the wrong kind of knowledge. We gather and allow the “wisdom of the world” to penetrate our hearts and minds. That knowledge leads us away from the path of righteousness. It tries to take away the truth. 

We need to know and understand this fact – there are two kinds of knowledge and two ways to use them. The Knowledge of God will bring peace and understanding. The knowledge of the world with bring anxiety and confusion. 

The only way that we can absorb the Knowledge of God is to get into His word. It requires us to learn about God, to know His statutes and commands and to walk with Him daily. It means that sometimes we are going to learn really tough lessons. We are going to hear things that make us sad because we are convicted by the Holy Spirit to change. We are going to read about consequences of not choosing God and will learn that Hell is a real place filled with real people who made a real decision. 

Learning is tough stuff. It requires discipline, attention and continuity. It’s not something that you casually do from time to time. It needs to be something you work at every day. Just like a diet won’t work if you follow it one to two times a week, being a student of Christ requires diligence. It is a daily task that you choose to complete each and every day. 

Am I diligent? Nope. Am I proud of that? Nope. Do I want to do better? Yep. I think this is an area that everyone could stand a booster shot in from time to time. The new year is just around the corner. I am already planning how I am going to make next year a more educational year than this year. How about you? What are you going to do next year that will draw you closer to Christ? 

Learning should be a lifelong activity. What will you do to learn more of Him today?

Sleeping through the storm

Luke 8:22-25 – “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

We just went through a hurricane. Not my idea of a good time, I’ll tell you. As we laid in the closet under the stairs while the front and back of the eye of the storm went over our house, my kids slept. The electricity had gone out which caused the fan to go off which woke me up to the raging wind. It howled and screamed and thrashed against the front of our house. I’m laying in the closet praying, “Please God, keep the roof on my house and my friends and family safe” while my children are sleeping. Sleeping! I was glad though. I was in a state enough without having to deal with them freaking out.

While I was out and about yesterday working, I heard the same thing from many of my clients – they slept through the hurricane! What?! How can that be? They went to bed Sunday night and knew nothing had happened until they woke up Monday morning. 

My grandma always said, “The Good Lord’s gonna gitcha when He wants ya whether you’re hidin’ or not.” Faith. Faith that He is in control and we have nothing to fear. I experienced a great deal of fear last week, especially Friday. Friday was tough for me. I believe the majority of it was the uncertainty. We had no idea where the hurricane would hit and how bad it would be. The Holy Spirit had to keep whispering to me – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) He had to say it multiple times because I was having a hard time getting my heart and mind to listen. Faith.  Faith that He is in control.

Now, I’m not certain that all of my clients have that sort of faith in their lives. I’m working on that. But I do know that God used their…faith, or lack of hearing, to remind me that I have nothing to fear, even in a hurricane. It is about letting go and letting God. And that, my friend, is tough. I like to be in control of things going on in my life. I like to know when, where and how things are going to go before I step into it. But faith reminds me that sometimes I won’t know all the details. Faith reminds me that sometimes I need to sleep during the storm. I can’t control it. I can’t affect the outcome of it. I can only prepare and pray. 

Prepare and pray. Maybe that should be my new motto. Isn’t that all God really wants us to do? Second Timothy says He gave us a “sound mind” – the ability to know when to prepare and how to prepare. We know that “power” is from God alone. And we know that “love” should cover everything we do. And when we have that power, love and sound mind, we can sleep through the storm. Isn’t that why Jesus slept in the boat during the storm? He had all those things in abundance. 

So the next time you find yourself in a storm, whether figuratively or literally, have faith. Prepare and pray. Allow God to take the fear the devil attempts to plant in your heart and turn it into power, love and a sound mind. And sleep through the storm.

How to fight the good fight

2 Samuel 10:12 – “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.”

Every day is a battle. Some are more ferocious than others but they are battles nonetheless. We face a variety of choices and challenges every time we wake up.  Will I be lazy or productive today? Will I go back to what I’ve always done or will I try something new? Will I listen to the leadership of the Holy Spirit or strike out on my own?

Let me give you another rendition of this verse (Melissa-ology): “Don’t be afraid. Fight bravely. Make good choices. Trust God for the outcome.”

Sometimes in our battles we get confused. Some think that we should sit and wait for God to take care of things. And some think that if it wasn’t for their smarts and cleverness that nothing would get done. But you see, it is a delicate balance of both that is necessary. We need to trust God for the outcome while using the brains and muscle He gave us. Utilizing our resources to obey God is paramount. We can’t just sit back and wait all the time. Sometimes the battle requires action and thought. Like I said, it’s a delicate balance that requires prayer and leadership from the Holy Spirit. 

So how does this apply to my every day, ho-hum life? You are going to be faced with something crazy today, guaranteed. How about we all try this together? Let’s turn the crazy, mixed up problem over to God, first and foremost, and then let’s do our best. Let’s ask God to show us how to utilize our resources that He has given us to do the best we can in this situation. And then, make SOMETHING happen. Make ANYTHING happen. Don’t just sit there like a bump on a log and wait for someone else to notice the battle. 

You see, battles and challenges of life need to be recognized, turned over to the proper Authority and then dealt with in the best possible way as directed by the so mentioned Authority. Don’t be complacent. Don’t be lazy. Don’t be wishy-washy. Be a solider for Christ. Be different. Be the person that gets it done according to His leadership and guidance. Fight the good fight. 

He’s got it!

Numbers 4:49 – “According to the commandment of the LORD they were numbered by the hand of Moses, every one according to his service, and according to his burden: thus were they numbered of him, as the LORD commanded Moses.”

Do you ever think to yourself that you have way too much to do? How in the world are you going to get everything accomplished that you need to for that day? Do you ever feel that God must have forgotten about you that day because things just are not going as you had planned?

Well, just ponder this for a moment – organizing 603,550 men. Now, remember this number does not include women and children, nor does it take into account the Levites. 603,550 men. That, my friend, is overwhelming.

But not for God. As I was reading through Numbers 1-4 this morning, I started thinking about what was really going on here in these chapters. God was numbering the people for several reasons – for dividing the land once the children of Israel got there, to know the number of soldiers available AND to see whose job it was to transport what. You see, God already knew these numbers but the leaders did not.

The ones leading this group needed some guidance in organization. They needed to know what they were dealing with and how to get things done. Can you imagine the bedlam that would have ensued if God hadn’t taken the lead to tell those 603,55o men who was to carry what and how they were to move the tabernacle? They would have probably stood there staring at one another waiting for the other one to move first.

And then when it came to setting up again, God had that covered too! He told them exactly where each tribe was to set up its tents.

Organization. I love it. It drives me crazy when things are scattered everywhere. But there are days and times in my life that are hectic. I am overwhelmed and crazy. I feel like God may have forgotten that I’m floundering like a fish out of water. When I begin to feel like that, I hear this little voice in my head reminding me that He has got this, if only I would let Him have it. I have trouble with that one. I get possessive of my troubles. It’s not really a good place to be. If God could organize and take care of all those people in the middle of the wilderness, surely He can take care of my piddly little problems.

So, let me challenge you today to remember this awe-inspiring truth – God saw probably over a million people through 40 years in the wilderness with no help from man. If He can take on this crazy-big task, trust me, He can handle your problems. No matter how overwhelming, no matter how big, no matter how complicated, God can handle it.

Makin’ plans

Psalm 119:1-8 – “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.”

The last day of 2014. It is crazy that 364 days have already passed. My year has been filled with heart ache and tears and laughter and celebrations, reunions and good byes. Like most years, it has had its ups and downs. But when I look back, I mostly remember the good.

On a day like today, I don’t just want to remember the events of the year. I also want to review my behaviors. I had times when I walked ever so closely with Jesus. And I had times where I had to kinda shout because I had walked on a side path.

I also want to take some time and think about the goals that I accomplished and those that I did not. It seems that more often than not the goals that I set for myself were not accomplished. So why do I torture myself by setting goals every year? I need direction. I need a point to try to hit.

You see, when I look at these verses for today, I see someone who tries – someone whose desire is to follow more closely after The Lord and who knows that he (or she) will not always be successful. But in their trying comes a blessing. The writer desires to keep the commands of God and desires to seek after Him. Yet, the writer asks that God not utterly forsake him. Why would he ask that? Because he knows that sometimes he will fail.

God knows who He is dealing with here – He knows that we are sinners. He knows that we are going to make grandiose plans to serve Him and that somewhere down the line, we will neglect that desire. But He knows that we desire to serve Him and learn about Him. He knows that we desire to do our best. Remember, God sees and discerns the intents of our heart. You can’t fool God. I teach the young teen Sunday School class and I am always asking them to give me their real answer, not the “Sunday School answer”.

God doesn’t want your “Sunday School” plans. He wants your down in the nitty gritty plans. He wants to be a part of the plans that you make for every single aspect of your life. He wants to direct them. “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” You see, even the writer of this Psalm had a desire for God to direct his ways. He didn’t say “just my ways when I’m learning about You”. He said “my ways”. To me, that means all of them.

As you remember this year and your successes and failures, you joys and your tears, your ups and your downs, take a moment and see where you have let God lead you. Rejoice in those moments and plan for more. Set your goal list before The Lord for approval. Make sure that He is directing all your ways.