Courage to Accept Who I Am

Who am I? For that matter, who are you? I must have asked myself “who am I really?” at least a couple of dozen times during my life. Who would I be if… fill in the blank… had never happened? If only, you fill in the blank, then I would be: happier; kinder; less stressed; more generous; friendlier; more loving; more trusting; less fearful; and the list could go on and on.  We live in a culture which is all about self-improvement and self-help and if we are brutally honest we are encouraged to be all about self by much of the media and advertising. If we do not fit the acceptable social, economic, physical, intellectual type; many of us begin to question our value. Many would say we live in a narcissistic society and perhaps there are varying degrees of truth to that statement. That determination belongs to the only One who is qualified to judge and it is certainly not mine to speculate about!

There is one place we can go to begin to find out who we really are, though many consider it irrelevant and outdated. It is a place where we can see the true nature of the human condition from the absolute worst to the best humans have to offer. Many see it as a limiting rule book about an angry God just waiting to catch us doing something He doesn’t like; others see it as a historic book, not relevant to our day. There are those who just take it in sections; holding on to that with which they agree and tossing the rest. Lastly, there are those that see it as the greatest love story of all time; a love letter from God to His children. Yes, I am talking about the Bible. Sadly, many opinions about its contents are formed with little or no exposure to its actual contents or because without full understanding of its context as a whole; it appears confusing and in the eyes of some contradicting. Just as anything in life, when we don’t have the big picture or see the whole of a situation; some things can appear convoluted and confusing.

Ok, I am betting you are asking what does this have to do with Courage to Accept Who I Am! I would be.  If you truly believe that we were created by God, and I know some may not; His Word is the best place to find out who God says we are. This is especially true if you are a believer in Jesus Christ!  Can we glance at just a few examples?

  • We are created in the image of God – Gen. 1:26 “Let us make man in Our image, according to our likeness.
  • We were known to Him even before our conception  ‘For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.‘ (‭Psalms‬ ‭139‬:‭13-16‬ HCSB)  (I don’t know about you but this one slays me! Before I was born all my days were known, written in His book. Even though He knew beforehand everything I would ever do and the choices (even the stupid ones) I would make, He chose to bring forth my life. He placed me here for a purpose and found value in who I would be.)
  • God provided a way for us to be righteous despite our failures through Christ – “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.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭21‬ HCSB) Jesus suffered brutally and was crucified despite His innocence to bring peace between God and mankind with NO guarantee that we would accept the gift by accepting Him. He found us to be worth His suffering even if we remained in unbelief.
  • He chose us; adopted us into His family – “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭3-6‬ HCSB)
  • We are His beloved Creation – “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ HCSB)
  • We are secure in Christ – “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” (‭Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ MSG)
  • We are chosen; not rejected – “I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭41‬:‭9-10‬ HCSB)   “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (‭1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭9‬ HCSB)
  • We are valued – “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭10‬:‭29-31‬ HCSB)

This is just a small sampling of the scriptures that tell of our Father’s tremendous love for us even before we ever knew or accepted His gift of unspeakable grace through Jesus Christ. There are hundreds more examples available to us in His Word by searching Who You are in Christ. It is astonishing to see yourself as He sees you! So I challenge you if you have concerns about who you are or you struggle with insecurity, your value and worth, lack of confidence, or even fear; check out who the Creator of the Universe says you are. It will change your perspective and your life. Knowing Christ and who you are In Christ brings a healthy view of oneself. It helps bring wholeness to our lives without narcissism, big egos, and puffed up pride because our standing is not of our own doing, nor is it based on performance; but is totally based of the Grace of God and the accepting Gift of Jesus in our lives. The more we understand the wonderful gift of grace; the more grateful we become. The more grateful we become; the easier it is to show grace to those in our lives who struggle with insecurity, their value or worth, lack of confidence and fear. Afterall, we all struggle at times. We all fall short of others expectations; especially God’s. He said the greatest commandment was for us to love Him completely, whole-heartedly and to love others as we love ourselves. That is not an easy task at times; yet He is faithful to forgive us when we confess our failures to Him and ask forgiveness. (1John 1:9)  Even if we are faithless, He is faithful to is precepts and His Word (2Timothy 2:13), which is a great reason to get to know it better and begin to walk in line with who He says we are!!

May His Grace and Peace Abound to you!

Days of Grace-Day 32

Our stop along the grace walk today will give some glimpses into God’s love and His kindness toward us following up on our look at Psalm 139. In Ephesians 2:10, we are told “For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.”(Ephesians 2:10 NET)  This goes right along with the psalm. We each have been specially designed by the Creator of the universe on purpose and for a purpose. It is no coincidence when, where, how and why we come into the world, yet because we have freedom of choice, we may or may not fulfill our originally intended destiny.  The Message puts it this way…

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where He wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all His idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:1-10 MSG)

What a great message. In Ephesians 1 we were told in verse three that we were blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. We have seen that we have been designed masterfully for a purpose and that God has gone to great lengths to do all that is necessary for us to have right standing with Him. Our job is to trust Him. One of the best gift’s we can give ourselves is to get to know this God we believe in. How? Studying His character throughout the Word, looking at how He interacts with His people. Looking at His character by how He interacts with the patriarchs, Israelites and people in the New Testament can be very eye-opening! Throughout history, God has used ordinary, normal, common, and flawed people to accomplish extraordinary feats. Timid Gideon becomes a mighty warrior. Young David becomes a giant killer, then a mighty warrior and King. Orphan Hadassah becomes the courageous Queen Esther and sabotages evil Haman’s plot. Rejected, Joseph enters as a slave into Egypt and in time becomes second in command and is able to take in the brothers who rejected him during the famine in their homeland. Moses who fled to the desert, goes back to Egypt 40 years later to lead around two million of his people to freedom. The list could go on. When we take a deeper look at the stories, we see they were all flawed people who messed up at times just as we do. Many of them questioned God, asked for signs; some lied. God knows better than anyone that we’re human and we fail. In fact that is why He made provision through Jesus. If we look carefully, we will see God is not just a just God waiting to dole out punishment; but we will see He is holy, extraordinarily patient, kind, merciful, forgiving, impartial, generous, compassionate and so much more. Psalm 113:13-15 says:

Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.  For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.”

God knows our weaknesses, strengths, and our humanity. Nothing about us is a surprise and not only that; no circumstance we ever find ourselves a part of takes Him by surprise. He has an answer for every question and a solution for every problem. Because He loves us immensely, He wants us to trust Him, seek Him, surrender our lives in exchange for the best life we could imagine. He has done all the work for us; now, He asks for our trust. Our problem is we shy away from trusting someone we do know.  We have to choose to get to know Him through His Word and then for some of us, one baby step at a time. For others, one giant leap of faith. Either way, it is worth more than we can ever imagine!

 Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]– To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it). (Ephesians 3:20, 21 AMP)

Days of Grace-Day 25

     Sometimes God just takes me by surprise, for instance the weather today. It started off much like yesterday; dark, cloudy and drizzly. We are currently working on a small project getting a house ready to sale and Saturdays are ‘work’ days to finish up the projects that need doing. The wetness of the day really did not matter because there was plenty that could be accomplished inside. There were blinds to hang and an area of the hall ceiling to prep for painting; carpets to be cleaned, so there was not lack of work to be done.  Later, about mid-day, the weather broke, the sun came, the day warmed and it was a beautiful afternoon. Finally, about 6:30, the wind picked up, clouds rolled in and the sky began to darken and prepare to release more rain. Now I bet some of you are thinking just what does that have to do with grace?

      On the way home I read today’s grace passage and when I did I just laughed aloud!  Today’s passage is all about the beauty of grace. It also talks about trials and struggles. I laughed thinking about yesterday’s statement regarding the weather and my topic of the day. When I was focused on beauty it was rainy and when focused on grace through difficulty, it was sunny and beautiful. My first thought was of how our God must have a wonderful sense of humor; followed by a sense of awe thinking about His character and diversity. Why? God created man in His own image or likeness, yet He also created us with much diversity. Our likes, dislikes, attitudes, interest, appearance are all different. The most amazing part to me is that even in our diversity, we are all very similar. We all need sustenance; we need love; we are relational; we all seek acceptance; we all face struggles, disappointments, and at times heartache; and lastly we all have times of victories, disappointments, and failures. Honestly, for most of us, we are more alike than different.

      Today, we are in Romans chapter five. This chapter has grace written all over it and I recommend when you get a chance just to spend some time lingering in it and soaking it in. For now, we will just be looking at the second half and it speaks for itself.  My prayer is that this passage will wash over you and give you great joy and comfort in knowing no matter what is going on in our lives God is here and He is for us. He went to great lengths to show the abundance of His love for us and this is one of the many proofs of that love!

                 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.        

              But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.                                          

              The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.             

              For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.                                                                                                

             So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.     

             For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.                                                   

            The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.   Romans 5:14-21

May grace and blessing abound to you this day!


Days of Grace-Day 17

Yesterday, we found ourselves in John looking at John’s declaration, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”  We observed that because of His fullness, we have received grace upon grace, and He has revealed grace and truth. As we follow the grace trail, we pick up next in Acts.  Jesus has fulfilled the Father’s plan.  He came back victoriously from the grave after three days, appeared to Mary, His disciples, and according to 1 Corinthians 15:6, He appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus ascended before the disciples eyes into Heaven.  Just before He left, He had instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit, which is where we find them as we approach Acts 2.

Jesus disciples, the women, His mother Mary and His brothers were all together in one place. They were gathered in Jerusalem in an upper room praying. All together there were about one hundred and twenty.  When the day of Pentecost came, so did the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came in power, rested on each one in the room and they were filled with the Spirit of God. Peter stood up with the other eleven disciples and he preached a powerful sermon that was heard and understood by each in their own language.  As if that were not amazing enough, apparently a very large crowd gathered because about 3,000 people accepted Peter’s message and were baptized that day. All of these devoted themselves to the apostles teaching,  spending much time together, sharing meals and praying together. Our first example of grace in the book of Acts describes the early church this way:

“They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 NET)

The NET translation, along with a couple of others, uses the words good will when translating Charis to English; others tend to use favor. The impression we are given from the verses is that those who believed were of one heart and one mind; they had all things in common. They faithfully taught as Jesus had taught them and told of His resurrection. There was no one among them who was lacking.  According to scripture, not only was this early church growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and in His teachings, they were genuinely caring for each other, getting along well and making a big impression on all the people around them. Acts goes on to tell us in chapter three about the healing of the lame man at the gate beautiful and a sermon at Solomon’s portico. Chapter four opens with the arrest of Peter and John. The priest and leaders of the temple thought they had solved all their problems by getting Jesus out of the picture. Now not only were his followers the twelve or the one hundred twenty; they had grown to over three thousand and continued to grow. This made the religious leaders very upset and here we find Peter and John in custody.

Peter and John went before the Sanhedrin and spoke. The Sanhedrin saw that the men, despite the lack of education and training were bold and smart and were amazed. They knew instinctively these men were with Jesus. They came to the verdict, no one could speak the name of Jesus again. These bold followers refused to back down, asking the leaders “is it right to obey God or man; you judge, but we must speak out these things we have witnessed.” They were threatened again and released.  Peter and John reported back to the people all that had happened and they began to pray for boldness! No holding back in fear of the religious leaders here; they petitioned to the highest authority for boldness to continue His will and His work. They could have prayed for protection, but they prayed for boldness and an increase in healing and wonders. They didn’t shrink back.

In chapter four we are told: Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. (Acts 4:32-35 NKJV)

What can we learn about grace from their example? What united these people to not only live in harmony but to build this incredible early church?  Could it be regular fellowship, sharing meals, and prayer? Is it having everything in common and helping those in need? Maybe it was time together in the temple? Did the resistance coming against them from religious leaders cause them to bond and become closer? I am sure all of these were contributing factors to their harmony and powerful growth. Perhaps the most powerful reason is found in their finding the one thing that can unite them, Jesus. I believe their uniting factor was their extreme dedication to Jesus, the empowering of the Holy Spirit and their willingness to both give grace to each other and ability to receive it back from one another.

May His grace abound so that we can give grace abundantly!