Abandoned but Not Forgotten

Today, as I began week 2—day five of Beth Moore’s new Bible Study Entrusted, the topic is a difficult one. Paul, nearing the end of his life and facing execution is writing to Timothy, his son in the faith. The title is “Left and Found.” The focus is this passage found in 1 Timothy 1:

 “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you. 15 This you know: All those in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes. 16 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he obtain mercy from Him on that day. And you know very well how much he ministered at Ephesus.” (HCSB)

One of the focal points was verse 15 where Paul says “all those in Asia have turned away from me. Paul felt deserted by people he once was close to. If we continue into the next verse, we find that though Paul felt deserted, he was not forgotten! He goes on say that Onesiphorus searched for Paul actively when he came to Rome. He fervently searched until he found Paul and when he did Paul found refreshing and comfort because this man was not ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment. Paul felt abandoned, but he was not forgotten!

We live in a world that is not so different. Our dress, technology, and customs may be far removed from ancient Rome, and our prison cells may be quite different; but people are not so different. Scores of people everyday struggle with feelings of loss, desertion or abandonment. Often in those times feelings can be overwhelming. Suicide is rampant in the world today because hopelessness can set in when there seems no way around or through the problems that the person is facing. Sadly, hopelessness is happening at younger and younger ages. Just Tuesday night I heard of a middle schooler who had succumbed. Perhaps that is why this passage struck me, and I was compelled to share it with you.

Paul had spent his life for Jesus Christ since the day he met Him on the road to Damascus. In 2 Corinthians we see that it was not an easy life.

“Five times I received 39 lashes from Jews. Three times I was beaten with rods by the Romans. Once I was stoned by my enemies. Three times I was shipwrecked. I have spent a night and a day in the open sea. On frequent journeys, I faced dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the open country, dangers on the sea, and dangers among false brothers; labor and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, cold, and lacking clothing.” 24-27 (HCSB)

We don’t know how long it was between Paul feeling deserted by his friends and the time Onesiphorus showed up bringing refreshing and acceptance. What we can surmise based on scripture is that Paul, though in chains was still serving God through the letters of encouragement and instruction that he wrote during his imprisonments. Despite his sufferings and feelings of abandonment, he held tight to the hope he had in Jesus Christ. He held fast to his faith and walked by faith, not by sight or feelings. Because we have his letters as a testimony, we know God had not abandoned Paul. At just the right time, Onesiphorus showed up, and Paul found needed encouragement and refreshment to stay the course. Perhaps not in Paul’s timing but in God’s perfect timing He showed up for Paul.

Not only did Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus, he spent his life following Christ and encouraging others to “follow me as I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) He spent a lifetime learning the ways of Jesus, and learning his identity in Christ. He set an example in his life; teaching and mentoring others to do the same. This activity is what enabled him to keep the faith in the difficulties of life. Paul knew who he was without Christ, and he knew who he was because of Jesus. Knowing our true identity in Christ Jesus can make all the difference in how we face life; especially in the difficult times!! But first, we have to know! We have to search it out and then we have to have faith to believe it is true.

“Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.” and they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.” Isaiah 62:11b-12

 

 

Entrusted A Study of 2 Timothy by Beth Moore is available today at LifeWay Christian Bookstores. #Entrusted Study

What Determines Who You Are?

As usual, I am finding there is so much I want to do and yet so little time to do it all! For example, I am scanning the new Entrusted Bible Study and reading both a Christian Non-fiction book on Daniel, another on prayer (with a friend) and a fiction book on prayer based on several non-fiction characters (with my husband). Yes, I am a little crazy that way!

Now for the cool part! They all converge on the topic of identity. That’s right! Who we are, our identity!  So who are we really? Do our actions dictate our identity? Our heritage? Does the world we live in dictate our identity?
Paul found his true identity in his conversion on the road to Damascus when he met Jesus! His life dramatically changed from one who persecuted followers of Christ to one who reached out, taught and mentored people into followers of Christ! With boldness, he proclaimed, “Follow me as I follow Christ!”

Daniel and his young friends were taken captive into the custody of foreigners. These devout young men did not let their captures change their identity. Staying firm to their God-given identity was a priority in their new environment even when it threatened their very lives, they remained faithful.

One quote from Living Among Lions today was “Our actions spring from our identity, not our profession; from who we are, not what we do. If it is true that our actions are directed by who we are, our identity or how we see ourselves; then what do our actions reveal about us?

Are our actions consistent with who we think we are

or are they in contradiction?

 

Are our actions more aligned with what we do or feel

than with who we truly are?

 

 If so, is it possible that we may a bit confused still about our identity or

even under the influence of an identity thief?

 

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason, the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10:7-18 (NASB)

 

These are just a few of the characteristics of our identity in Christ. God’s Word is full of much more, but let’s just look at these powerful few:

Forgiven –     “I am writing you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven      because of Jesus name. ” 1 John 2:10

Cleansed –    “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with on another and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1John 1:7 (ESV)

Redeemed –  “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:7 (NASB)

Called –         “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”  2 Timothy 1:9 (HCSB)

Chosen/appointed -“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of theFather in My Name He may give to you.” John 15:16

Complete –   “and in Him, you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule an authority.” Colossians 2:10 (NASB)

Children of God – “Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3 (HCSB)

A Royal Priesthood – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Peaceful –       “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 (ESV)

Victorious –   “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  1 Corinthians 15:57 (HCSB)

“In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.” 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16 (MSG)

Wow! Just based on these verses alone, what will our life be like if we find our identity in these promises? How would life change? If we begin to look at God’s description of our life based only on who He says we are and daily gaze upon that reflection; what would our lives look like in a week? A month? Or in a year? Would we see the likeness of Christ forming in our lives?

      How would life change if we were focused on who we are and whose we are instead of what we do? Can you imagine meeting someone for the first time and rather than asking them what do you do; asking who are you? What are you passionate about? It just might make for some highly unusual first impressions!

Heavenly Father, please teach us to look to You for our identity. Help us find our true value and worth not in the things of this world or in what others have to say, whether good or bad; but to find it in who You say we are. Give us wisdom and understanding as we walk through life to see beyond others opinions and superficial comparisons to walk in the fullness of who You created us to be. Grace and peace to you, In the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ!

The Correct Fit is Crucial

This morning I have been thinking about the importance of how a thing fits. Whether it is an item of clothing, shoes, a career, a relationship, a hobby or perhaps volunteer work; if it fits well, it is much more enjoyable! Don’t believe me? Try walking around in shoes that are either two sizes too big or too small, pants so tight they challenge your circulation or so large that… Well, for some that is fashionable so I won’t go there. The truth is for most of us wearing the wrong fit ranges from uncomfortable to unbearable.

We are all different in our body types, our personalities, our talents, and giftings are different as well. We are from different ethos. Our varied experiences upon which we tend to base our view of life are unique to our life. Even those raised in the same household can find that they are very different in some areas. Even so, we live in a world that many find themselves in the trap of comparison and competition. In this world, many of us try to fit into what some consider ‘normal’ rather than celebrating who we were created to be in the first place.

I have to ask, is this healthy? Each will have to answer this question for themselves. Is it healthy for a person to grow and stretch? Absolutely! But is is healthy to force yourself to fit immediately into a mold that is meant for someone else? For example, an introvert may never be the first to speak out publicly or become the life of the party. However, it is very likely they will grow more comfortable being around larger groups and speaking out as they grow and mature through the circumstances of their life.

Take David and Goliath for an example, many of us are very familiar with this story from our childhood. David, a shepherd boy, faces off with a scary, huge giant who was terrorizing the Israelites. David takes a slingshot and five smooth stones. He aims and hurls the first stone killing the great beast of a man. Then David becomes king. What I was not told and had to learn as an adult was that David had been chosen and anointed as the next king of Israel while still tending sheep. He was tasked with caring for a flock and protecting that flock. While in the wilderness, he had protected his charges from the threat of wild animals.

Then he became an armor bearer for King Saul, the king he was to replace. When Saul became tormented, David is called upon to play his harp which would sooth the king.
Fast forward to the gathering of the Philistine army for battle. They gathered on the land belonging to Judah, encamped in the area between Soccoh and Azekah. Saul and the men of Israel gathered nearby to protect their property. Goliath led the Philistines and taunted the men of Israel both by his size and with his mouth. Saul and his men were alarmed and afraid. That’s when David arrives bringing food to his three older brothers who are with Saul. David then inquires of the men, “what will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 Then David takes up the challenge but immediately is told he is a youth and unprepared. David reminds them that he had protected the flocks in the wilderness and had killed both a lion and a bear while the sheep were in his charge. “The Lord delivered me from the paw or the lion and the paw of the bear; He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (verse 37).

Next, they proceeded by dressing David in the king’s armor. David tried to walk in the ill-fitting armor and promptly said he could not wear what he’d not tested. He removed the armor and took up his slingshot. Only when properly fitted with the tools that fit him, was David able to accomplish what the army of Israel had not been able to accomplish.
We all have a destiny and a purpose according to scriptures like Psalm 139, Jeremiah 29:11-13; Ephesians 2:10 and others. What we have to remember is that growing into that destiny is a process and rarely happens fast and certainly not overnight. Instead, the circumstances, trials, and people God places in our lives help us grow and stretch. Our boundaries are increased as are our experiences. We are strengthened and renewed to prepare us to face the next new challenge as we choose to cooperate with Him. When we don’t, we can become stuck and risk growing weary or stagnant in that place.

Lord, teach us to be wise and not try to wear another’s ill- fitting armor or try to be someone we are not. Please, teach us about ourselves and help us walk in the personality, talents, and giftings that you have given us. Help us to have the courage and grace to be who You created us to be! Teach us who You say that we are. Please help us to have the wisdom to walk in the rhythm of Your grace in our lives and the value that You place on us, rather than comparing ourselves with others and determining our worth based on how we measure up to someone else. With Your help, we can be all that You created us to be, walking in step and sync with the plan You had for us before the foundation of the world. We can be transformed from glory to glory until we are a reflection of Your glory.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Just a Small Thing

So is it just a little thing? I have heard it said many times that it isn’t the huge things in life that wear away at us, but it is the small stuff that just keeps on coming. I’ve also noticed that is isn’t always the large thing that brings us joy. This morning as I spent a few moments in prayer, study, and reflection, I found myself drawn to look out the window in front of my desk. There playing around a feeder, I witnessed a hummingbird feeding. I wasn’t a grown bird but a tiny young hummingbird.

Distracted and delighted, I sat for some time watching as others began to join in on the feeding and began to swirl playfully all around the feeder. I began to ponder how delicate and beautiful these creatures are. What a marvel of creation they are! What a display of the glory of God is flitting just a few feet in front of me just beyond my desk and window!

Are you aware that you also are a precious display of His glory and splendor? It is true, you are! We all are. It is one of those things we tend to take for granted. We have been made in the image of the Creator of the universe. Just the workings of our physical body and its ability to heal itself is a miracle. It is a simple wonder that often alludes us like so many small things in life.

What we often forget is that small things can become great when placed into the hands of God. Here’s an example: Long before the birth of the Savior in Bethlehem, Micah foretells the event. Let’s look at chapter five, verse two: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (ESV) Notice how Bethlehem was unnotable, to small to be considered to be part of Judah though it was.

Here is another example, the mustard seed is very tiny. If your not careful when holding it is will slip out of your hand without you realizing it! Matthew 13:31-32 tells us this about it: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (ESV) We are also reminded, “For truly, I (Jesus) say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (ESV)

In James Scripture records: “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.” (ESV) It also tells us that God uses the foolish things of the earth to confound the wise. 1 Corinthians 1:27 (KJV) I believe it can also be said that He uses the small or weak things to confound the strong. David and Goliath is a good example of this.

So what’s my point? God has made all things beautiful in their time. He has a plan and a destiny for each one of us, and they are all different. He has created us uniquely. He has place hopes and dreams insides us; they are seeds of our destiny. Before our first breath, God knew us, all about us. He formed us in the womb and knew all about our lives before we breathed one breath. (Psalm 139) Then life happens, and circumstances get in the way. They have a way of stealing our dreams, delaying plans and even making us forget those hope and dreams. It is still there! It is not too late! Does it seem small and far away? There is tremendous beauty and power in small things! If fact, when submitted into the hands of our loving Heavenly Father and Creator; little becomes exceedingly, above and beyond, beyond anything we can ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20 (Amplified)

God is not an “ethereal Santa” or a “genie in a bottle” but He is a loving and generous Father. He is for us and our greatest good. When we trust Him with our little, it can become much. He is trustworthy; we can trust Him with our hopes, dreams, hurts and fears. He is the redeemer, restorer, provider, and protector. Will we trust Him? His timing?

So let’s go for it! Revive those dreams, renew those hopes and race toward them fearlessly under God’s guidance and direction. I love this quote from Beth Moore, “Never take a no from the Devil!; God will never say no to you that He is not trying to redirect you to where your yes is!!”

Blessings and Peace to you my friend!