Identity

My little dog Coco is a yorkie poodle mix. He looks and behaves exactly how you would expect a male yorkipoo to behave. His identity is very much tied to the character, behavior, look and personality of his breed of dog. The concept of identity is a complex topic. But in psychological terms a persons identity is normally defined by the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that make a person who and what they are. How a person perceives themselves and how the world perceives a person influence our identity. A persons identity is often formed by a variety of factors. It is very complex.

Why is concept of identity important? Why do we care about identity? Well God has a lot to say about our identity. It is important to us as Christians. For when we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we put to death our old identity to adopt a new one. Our identity becomes the identity given to us by our Heavenly Father. Our identity is in our adoption as God’s children. He is then molding and shaping us as his children to be more Christ-like.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” Galatians 3:26-29

How do you perceive yourself? How would you describe the qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and expressions that define you? Are these characteristics reflective of your identity as God’s child? Are you clothed with Christ or something else? Making our identity in Christ and as God’s child is core to who we are as Christians.

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To Do Lists

I went to a meeting recently. It was a group of women only. There was not a single women in the group that was not struggling or battling something. I could not solve there problems. All I could do was pray for them. Pray for the Lord to move and work in there lives. But I also felt a bit overwhelmed. It made my anxiety level go up. It made me feel more desperate. I had to take a step back to be with my Heavenly Father. For this pressure, anxiety and desperate feeling was not from God’s spirit.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:28-34

I have a tendency to be a planner. I like plans. For when I make a plan and follow through on the plan I feel in control. I feel a sense of accomplishment. Things are orderly and less chaotic. My stress level tends to go down. But as much as I like plans I have learned that my own plans are not always God’s plan. I may make a plan but my prayer is always may the Lord’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I am not saying it is wrong to make a plan. We as humans often need a plan to help us get up in the morning. But we should always keep in mind that God’s plans are higher than our own. Instead of worrying about the future we should focus on the tasks the Lord has given us for the day. Instead of agonizing over the future. We should make a daily to do list, spend time in pray with our Heavenly Father to make sure our daily to do list is seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

I have become very fond of my daily to do list. Otherwise I forget important tasks or have trouble structuring my day. But at the very top of my daily to do list should always be to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. For at the end of the day this is the only plan of any importance.

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I Am Starving

The other day I have a rather strange experience. I decided to go to the grocery store. On my way I started to feel a little off. I was dizzy, and weak. I started to pray. Lord give me the strength for today’s tasks. It was not long after that I became so incredibly hungry and thirsty. By the way I don’t recommend going to the grocery store when you are completely famished. I was asking God, “what in the world is going on with me?” I barely finished my grocery shopping and quickly made my way home to rest. As I walked in the door my eyes rested upon some scripture. It encouraged me to wait patiently upon the Lord and rest in him. So I took the rest of the day off and the rest of the week easy.

As I have pondered the rather bizarre experience and read from John 6 I was reminded that although I was at the grocery store and I physically felt hungry and thirsty, my true source of all my needs is Jesus himself. For he is the bread of life and my daily bread. My physical body may grow weak but Jesus is transforming my heart, mind and soul each day. Renewing and restoring me for I am his child. I went to the grocery store for food. I felt physically famished. But I also walked through the grocery store doors already holding the bread of life. I am a blessed women indeed.

“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:32-40

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The One Who Serves

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:8-12

I used to work as a doctor. I have to admit it felt good to have the respect of others for my profession, title and education. For many people look up to doctors. Although all healthcare is a team based approach the doctor is normally the one ultimately in charge. As a doctor you work very hard and you serve. But you also receive a certain amount of admiration from many people. The profession is well revered.

When I gave up my work as a doctor and gave up my medical license I went through a certain amount of grief and adjustment. It was something I had worked hard for many many years. When people asked what I do for a living I went from saying I am a doctor to saying I am an artist. The response from others went from “Oh your a doctor, Wow.” to “your an artist, why would you do that.” Let’s just say I do not receive the same amount of respect and admiration I once did.

But here is the important thing. Jesus taught that the greatest of us would be the servant. I may not have the title and admiration of being a doctor but I can still work to be a servant of others. I may not receive the admiration of people but I receive the admiration of my Heavenly Father. My life purpose does not need to be the top of the mountain but the best servant of others I am able to accomplish.

The world encourages us to be the best by being above others. But Jesus teaches us that the best are those who serve others. I often forget this and have to ask God to redirect my eyes and my focus. But it also reminds me that I should be more thankful and show gratitude to others whom I see exhibiting great servanthood. For they bring much praise to our Heavenly Father and need reminding of that our Heavenly Fathers loves and approval of them.

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Negative Thinking

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

My little dog Itsy is quiet. She rarely makes a noise. I have wondered what actually goes through her little doggy head. Our humans minds are always thinking something. Even those who are quiet, quiet people may tend to think more. We humans often battle with negative thinking. We may not speak out the thoughts but we are thinking things that are not in line with God. Our negative thinking even when not spoken is harmful to ourselves. For negative thinking often contributes to depression, anxiety, sleep issues, behavior problems and relational conflicts.

Much of modern day behavioral therapy conducted by liscensed counselor focuses on changing negative thought patterns and thinking. This is what these professionals are trained to do. It takes work and time. But even before we had modern day counselors and therapist God gave us his wisdom. For the Bible already lined out for us what we should and should not be thinking. The Bible gave us tools for retraining our minds thousands of years before we had modern day mental health professionals.

I myself have had to work extensively to retrain my mind and thinking. I continue to work in this area. For part of becoming more like Christ is retraining my mind to think more like Christ. This is a lifetime practice for us Christians. So how do we change our thinking?

I like to think of our thinking as a game of baseball. Let’s say our good thoughts are like a good hit or a home run. While our negative thoughts are like a fly ball. When playing baseball the pitcher throws the batter a pitch. The hitter then attempts to hit the ball. When we are engaging in life it is like being thrown a pitch. Our minds will instinctively form a thought in response just like a batter will attempt to hit the baseball. Most of the time the response is subconscious. It is instinctual. We sometime get a hit. We think the correct thing in line with Christ. But we also often hit a fly ball. I like to think of our negative and harmful thinking as these fly balls.

The first step is being about to recognize what is a hit and what is a fly ball. We as the batter often struggle to tell the difference, especially if it is close to the line. This is why we have a uppire in baseball and this is why we often need counseling, pastoral care and Christian community in our lives. For they can help us better understand what is a fly ball and what is a hit. But once the fly ball is hit what then? The ball was not a hit but we still need to collect the ball. We need to identify what went wrong in the batting process so that we can improve and not continue to hit a fly or miss the ball completely. Just as a batter practices hitting the baseball we as humans have to practice identifying our thoughts and checking whether they are in line with Christ.

I often have to write things out. I will write out the thought. Recognize it as being in line with Christ or not. If the thought is in line with Christ, I then write out the correct thinking and go as far as to give the scriptural reference for why it is the correct thought. The more I do this the more the correct thinking becomes the new habit. As I go about my day and life throws me a curve ball the more likely I am to get a hit and less likely to strike out. Yet I am not perfect so I still strike out sometimes and I rest in God’s grace for the times I fail.

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5

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