“Who Should I Be?” Before “What Should I Do?”

God created my identity.  It is found “in Him” as His beloved child. I didn’t earn it and I don’t keep it through good behavior. The identity we were created to have in God must take the lead in changing our behavior and not the reverse. In this world we determine identity on the basis of behavior, which leads to frustration and legalism.

The question, “Who should I be?” must come before “What should I do?” The order is crucial. “Who we are?” must precede “how we should love?”

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Giving God Advice

Why do we think we can give God advice? We do it all the time. We offer God advice every time we complain about the way our lives are going and every time we offer Him a helpful hint of how things could be done better.

I do it. You do it. We all do it. We try to make our words sound religious but the bottom line is that we, who cannot figure out how a brown cow can eat green grass and produce white milk, try to boss around the God who designed us and everything else, from how fast the sun burns fuel to what takes place inside of us at the cellular level.

So today, take a fast from telling God what He should do. Instead, ask for wisdom to see His handiwork in your life. Replace complaints with praise. God knows what He is doing.  Read Romans 11:34-36.

Spiritual Contributors, not Spiritual Consumers

Often I hear about people “church shopping.” This makes a lot of sense on one hand because when someone moves to a new community they should probably check out a few churches to see where they might fit best or where the doctrine/beliefs match their own. Sometimes this might also happen to someone who has experienced severe conflict in a church which makes them uncomfortable to return and continue there. But the language “shopping” with church really is not the best approach to finding a church home. It implies that the individual is a consumer looking for a church that will “meet my needs.”

I’m glad people want to find a church home. But looking for a church that meets my needs is an unbiblical statement. The church becomes a product to consume. “We loved the children’s programming but the sermons are really boring.”

God has called us to be spiritual contributors. The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world. I am here to serve God and to love people. I exist to make a difference. God created me to be a blessing to others.

So ask yourself: Am I more of a consumer or contributor? If you are a Christ-follower, hopefully you are a valuable part of a life-giving church.Do you drop your kids off in the nursery (without ever serving there), drink some free coffee, enjoy the service, then pick up your kids and go home? If so, you’re a consumer.

On the other hand, do you use your gifts to make a difference? Do you invite people to your church? Do you pray faithfully for church leaders? Do you give consistently of your finances? Do you serve passionately? Then you’re more of a contributor.

I’m not trying to be mean or make you feel guilty. I simply want you to be honest with yourself. If you are using your life to be a blessing to others today, then later you will relish sharing the stories that God allows you to tell. If you’re more focused on yourself than serving others, you’re going to end up with many blank pages–lost blessings that you can find only by contributing what God created you to give to the world.

How the Difficult Can Be Our Friend

Sometimes as much as we hate to think about it, our past can catch up to us. We may be totally different people but you never know what the consequences of previous actions may bring years later.

Enter Jacob. 20 years had passed since he deceived his dying father and cheated his brother Esau out of the blessing that belonged to the first-born. In those 2 decades Jacob had found love, a home, and prosperity. But then the shadow of his old transgressions fell across his path. Esau is on the march to meet him with 400 armed men. Esau the cheated had sworn an oath that he would kill his brother.

After splitting his company in 2, Jacob prayed that God would deliver him. He also sent presents to his brother. Then Jacob remained alone to wait. It turned out to be his life’s greatest experience. Do not fear your solitary moments. God will come closer to you than at any time.

What happened? He wrestled with some unknown assailant from midnight to dawn. In awful solitude they fought. Jacob seemed to have an advantage when his mysterious opponent somehow got his hip or thigh out of joint. Yet Jacob fought on.

As the morning dawned, Jacob found out this wasn’t an enemy but an angel. Jacob gripped him close and cried, “I will not let go until you bless me.” The angel blessed him and departed.

What opposes us in life, even our past, or what makes us struggle is, after all, not an enemy but a friend in disguise. Do not mourn over the hard and difficult experiences of life that have thrown your thigh out of joint, for in ways that you know not they have made you strong. Make sure that you utter the prayer of struggling Jacob, “I will not let go until you bless me!”

Pleading to God for souls

Even before Jacob wrestled with God, Abraham verbally wrestles with God. When confronted with the destruction of an evil city, Abraham pleaded with God (in the first recorded prayer) to spare the city. God doesn’t heed his prayer because there were not even ten righteous there. Abraham failed but there is something deeply moving, infinitely tender, and wonderfully uplifting about that intercession of the friend of God for the wicked inhabitants.

That is the way we ought to feel towards other people, and that is the way we ought to approach God and to pray to Him. Who knows how much you and I owe to those who pleaded with God for our souls?