How Do You Measure Up?

For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NKJV)

Have you ever had to measure something and could not find a tape measure or ruler? Have you ever measured something with the wrong tool? Would you measure a piece of paper with a yardstick? Would you measure a room with a twelve inch ruler? You have to measure your project with the appropriate tool. It is the same with our value as a human being and as a child of God.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

We often times sell ourselves short and measure our self-worth by the tools of the world. We try to measure up to something that has no spiritual significance at all. We tend to measure ourselves by what the world expects us to be. We are bombarded daily by advertisements telling us how to be the perfect person. We are told that this pill will fix all that ails you. It can make you thin, bring back your hair, make you stronger, or make you more of a man. These are all tactics of the great deceiver.

When Eve was tempted by the serpent, she was told that she was not good enough but that if she ate of the apple she could be more than she was meant to be. The truth is that God created us in His image and therefore we should be measuring ourselves by His standards and nothing else. As a matter of fact, God’s tape measure is larger than you can imagine because He knows what you are capable of. He knows that we can grow in Christ and therefore have no need to measure ourselves by the world’s standards.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

I often lose sight of what is important and begin to fix my eyes on what the world wants me to be. I find myself condemning myself for the way I look or my inability to speak eloquently. I blame all the things that I cannot have on the fact that I am not good enough. However, God gently reminds me that I am not to look to the world for any confirmation of myself but rather look toward Heaven and seek the prize that awaits me at the end.

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 (NKJV)

When you are feeling like you are not good enough, remember that God does not make mistakes. If you live your life and measure it by the only appropriate tool, you will find that you are called a Child of God and therefore are a perfect creation. You are complete in Him.

and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Colossians 2:10 (NKJV)

You and I were not created to be approved by man by rather to be a servant of the Almighty. In that, we should be looking to Him for approval of the things we say and do. We have been given the Holy Spirit to help us on our journey by guiding us in the right direction. He has prepared a place for me in His presence and I do not need the approval of this world to get there.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

Dear Jesus, I want to thank You for Your many mercies that you pour out on me. You alone are worth of all my praise. I humbly ask that each and every person that reads this today will find that they need to throw away the world’s yardstick and measure themselves only by You. I know that it is not always easy to ignore what the world throws at us daily, but you did not give me a spirit of fear but rather a spirit of sound mind that I can see that what the world offers is temporary and empty. You are my refuge and strength and to You I look in times of need and You will lay mine enemies at my feet. Please bless those that may have found even the smallest amount of truth in this and multiply it within their heart. I will continue to give you all the Glory forever. Amen.

 

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Facing the Bullies in our Life

Have you ever felt bullied? I don’t mean “picked on” once in a while but rather continual chastisement for whatever reason. This is a problem that I am all too familiar with. Fortunately, there is a way to handle bullies that will end their reign in our lives.

As a child, I had to endure the daily torment of others. It is as if children have a special sense of who is different and they pounce on them like a lion–devouring them. I was made fun of, chased on the playground, pursued nine long blocks home every day while insults were hurled at me. I was pummeled with rocks, beaten, humiliated, and laughed at. I had no way out and no one to protect me so I just dealt with it each day and quickly came to understand that I was never going to be worthy of friends. The summers were long and lonely, counting the days until I had to return to the daily torment.

This kind of behavior can certainly influence the way a person thinks and sees themselves later in life. It will often times drive them into a “self-medication” mode early in life and they soon spiral out of control. My heart aches daily for all the children in the schools that have to endure that same things that I had to as a child. My daughter often comes home and tells me how someone pushed her or made fun of her at school. It breaks my heart and “dad mode” kicks in and off to the school we go.

The Israelites were bullied by the Egyptians for over 400 years. They were enslaved and made to labor day and night. God, however, stood up for them. He protected His chosen people. He allowed it to happen in order to bring them to a point where He could work with them. Much like the potter with the clay.

Yet you Lord are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.    Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

Our Heavenly Father does this with us sometimes in order to bring us to a place where we are more “pliable.” Sometimes it is only in our times of true brokenness that we are able to be used for His will. As humans born into a sinful nature, it is easier for us to take control of our own lives rather than have the faith that is needed to allow God full control. But only by doing so can we ever experience God’s plan for us…and He does have one!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

So, Moses and Aaron were dispatched to bring God’s people out of Egypt. We all know the story of how God hardened the heart of the pharaoh and then rained down plagues on him and his people and was finally convinced to let them leave. Now by this time the Israelites numbered over 600,000. This number only reflects the men so in reality there were probably closer to 2-2.5 million people including women and children. They made up almost half of the population of Egypt during that time.

God marched the Israelites around the edge of the mountains and circled them back to encamp on the banks of the Red Sea. They were led by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. When they arrived at the Red Sea, they found that the pharaoh and his army were pursuing them and they became afraid. They began to complain to Moses about their situation.

Isn’t that just like us? We don’t get what we think we need or we are put in a situation that looks hopeless and we begin to complain. Remember that the Israelites were camped in an area that gave them no way out. They had mountains on two sides, the Red Sea on another, and the world’s greatest army coming after them. They were locked in with no way to escape.

The Israelites were so used to being bullied that their natural reaction was one of chaos. They were conditioned to think of themselves as less than a person and to believe that nothing good could come of their lives. They needed an intercession from God to make them believe that someone did find them to be more valuable than anything. They were a “chosen” people just like we are. Here is Moses’ response to their complaining:

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” Exodus 14:13-14 (NIV)

Moses tells them to just relax and allow the Lord to do His work. “…you need only be still.” So the angel of the Lord and the cloud moved from in front of them to behind them coming in between them and the Egyptians. It must have taken a tremendous act of faith for the Israelites to “be still” in that situation. Faced with a regretful and hateful pharaoh and his army pursuing them to drive them back. But that is what is required of us in order for God to work in our lives…faith.

We need to remember that no matter how the devil tries to bully us, there is always someone on our side that will fight for us. God will protect us from whatever we face, if we only allow Him to do so. He will position himself between us and the problem. We have to give up complete control and allow His work to be done through us. Just as he used the Israelites situation to bring about belief, He can do the same in our lives. Only God can turn a negative into a positive!

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:28-30 (NIV)

Remember that bullies only have power and control in your life if you allow them to. Satan can only bully you if you allow him to. Stand strong and turn to your faith in God as your refuge. This world is only temporary and one day we will all be in the presence of our Deliverer to sing praises to His name. Don’t be bogged down with the things of this world but rather “be still.”

Dear Father, as I approach your Throne of Grace today, I want to thank you for looking out for me all those many years. I look back now and can see your plan unfolding. I thank you for your mercy and Your grace. Your love will endure forever and I look to that whenever I am feeling down about my life. I pray that you protect all those that are faced with bullies everyday and that you bestow upon them the peace that surpasses all understanding. I pray that you may reveal yourself to them and remind them to just be still and know you are God! I will continue to give you all the glory. Amen.

 

Where’s my Identity?

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

What is “identity?” The dictionary says: “condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing.” What distinguishes you from say, your neighbor? Well, one could say it’s our physical characteristics or perhaps the way the neurons fire in the brain which dictates the way we think or act. Quite frankly, I have asked myself this question for years. Who am I?

Where do we find our identities? Do we find them in how much money we make? What car or truck we drive? Where we work? What our attendance was at church last week? Are we looking for it in worldly places or heavenly places?

As a child, I had a very lonely existence. I never had anyone to play with and the kids all made fun of me. I was that one kid in school every single year that was shunned, picked on, made fun of, beaten, chased, and humiliated. Yep…I was “that” guy. I often sat in my room and talked to myself so that I would not be so lonely. I dreamt of what I would become and how I would never make anyone feel the way I felt.

I was raised in the Nazarene church. My father ran the bus ministry and sat on the board, my mother was treasurer, I participated in all the activities because this was the only place that did not make me feel like less than a person. At a young age, I gave my life to Christ. Finally, someone that loved me for who I was without condemnation! The problem was there was no discipleship so it quickly faded and I allowed the oppression of the world to overcome me. I could not believe that a God of love would allow me to feel the pain I felt inside so I ran from God.

By the age of 15, I was smoking, drinking, and doing more drugs than most people do in a lifetime. Every day was a day of self-medication. I was stealing anything I could get my hands on to feed my habit. This continued all throughout my teenage years. Daily doses of “medication” kept me so numb that I would not have to feel the pain that was building inside of me. I desperately searched for my identity.

I spent time in satanic worship. Practicing the dark arts, casting my spells, praying. Satanism teaches that if you want something you just go out and get it regardless of who you step on in the process. “Death to the weakling, wealth to the strong!” You lie, cheat, steal—whatever the cost and you will find true happiness. This is who I wanted to be. The guy that didn’t take any crap from anyone ANYMORE! But Satan is the great deceiver so I soon found myself more desperate than ever to have friends and be loved.

I moved to Florida at 18. My oldest brother had offered to get me a place to stay and a job so off I went on another adventure to find myself. My roommate was an alcoholic and would often come home, bust in my door and beat me because there was a dish in the sink or because he had no one else to show power over. I felt as though I deserved it. This was no different than what I left behind so it must be the way things are supposed to be. He was my brother’s best friend so I could not say anything. He wouldn’t have believed me anyway even the bruises would not have convinced him. I soon found crack cocaine to numb the pain.

The addiction was horrible. Spending every dollar to get a fix and then breaking into people’s homes to steal what I could to feed the habit. I was able to medicate away the pain and despair. The hurt, loneliness, and self-loathing were no more.

I was still on a journey to find myself and moved to Arizona where I found the New Age movement. This is the thinking that man is divine and is therefore able to create his own reality. Reincarnation, transcendental meditation, crystal enlightenment—I tried them all. This allowed me to create my own world in which I was the center not God who had abandoned me so many years before. Along with this came meth amphetamines. I would sleep and eat only one day a week which gave me more time to devote to the pursuit of my happiness.

There was one person in my life that I actually thought was my friend who betrayed me with the woman I thought I loved. Oh, that old familiar pain was back. There it was. I knew it was just a matter of time since, after all, I was never truly meant to be happy anyway. I moved back to Iowa and exchanged the meth for alcohol. I would go out every night and drink myself to the point that I could not remember my own name and then climb in my car and drive home just to wake in the morning, pour myself a drink and go to work. I had to make the pain go away!

I remember one day sitting on my couch with a gun in my mouth just wanting the pain to go away when all of a sudden I felt the arms of Jesus wrap around me and tell me that it would be okay. I remembered His loving touch and the warmth of my heart. But I still could not commit. I still ran from God. But He did not give up. He placed someone in my path and soon I was married and we found our way back to church.

I still remember the day as though it were yesterday. The pastor was Gary White at the Bethel Heights Church of the Nazarene. He was preaching about turning our all over to Him and allowing Him to work in our lives. There it was! God met me at my point of brokenness and saved me! Praise be to God!!

So, where does all this tie into the title? I searched for many years for an identity. I looked for it through a straw, at the bottom of a bottle, and even in the darkness. But it wasn’t until I found Christ that I truly discovered who I was–a child of God!

When God calls us to Him, he changes us through the Holy Spirit which He promised. This Holy Spirit helps us to find the person that we were meant to be. He bestows gifts of the Spirit upon us to help us on our journey. The journey starts with a commitment to serve Christ. Who else do you know that would allow themselves to be beaten, humiliated, spat upon, nailed to a cross, and die for YOU?? He did all this so that we would no longer have to worry about who we are because we are children of God.

Dear Father, I thank you for the opportunity to share this message with someone today. It’s a message of hope and not despair; of love and not loneliness. I ask that if anyone that may read this is in need that they may seek you out for only in you can we ever truly be made whole and fulfill our purpose. Thank you for all that you have given to me and for it all I will forever give you the praise and glory. Amen.