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God's plan

Am I Too Far Gone?

But I’m so messed up…

I have a shirt that’s comfy, and cute, and it says, “Dillon Panthers Football,” on it. When it was new, I wore it all the time. Then I got some stains on it that wouldn’t come out. I wore it anyway, but the stains bothered me. Later, I noticed it was getting little holes in the fabric. It’s still hanging in my closet, but every time I put it on, I wonder if it’s too far gone to keep wearing.

Sometimes our lives get so wrecked and so jacked up we wonder if we’re too far gone for God to use us. We look at the stains and the holes and wonder how God could ever make anything good out of the mess we’ve made.

Let me introduce you to the poster boy for being too far gone. I wish we knew his real name, but the only name we know for him was Mob, a name given by the thousands of demons living in him. He was a madman who lived in the cemetery, sleeping in the graves. He roamed around naked, shrieking loudly and mangling his body by cutting it with rocks.

The locals tried to subdue him, but he broke free every time, even when they bound him with chains. (See Mark 5:1-5.)

Too far gone, right? His neighbors would have said he so. Maybe even his own family would have said he was too far gone.

But Jesus knew better. Mob wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t help him. He wasn’t so far gone that Jesus couldn’t use him.

Jesus crossed a lake and calmed a storm to reach this madman who appeared to be unreachable. Jesus rebuked the demons and brought peace and clarity to the man’s mind. (See Mark 5:6-13.)

The next time we see Mob, he is wearing clothes and in his right mind. Jesus healed him. Jesus clothed him. And Jesus called him: “…Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).

The Bible tells us that this naked, raving, body-mangling, cemetery-inhabiting demon-possessed madman became a missionary, spreading the good news of salvation to Jordan and Syria, winning many people to Jesus.

You see, God doesn’t ever look at us like I look at my old shirt. He never wonders if we are too far gone. He never, ever looks at one of his children and sees a hopeless case. He refuses to give up on us. He pursues us. He extends his love and grace to us. He invites us to fellowship with him. He whispers to us, “Your life can be better. Follow me.”

Friend, if you feel your life is so messed up that you can’t see any way to ever make it OK again, that’s awesome, because God’s power finds its fullest expression in our weakness.

God doesn’t just forgive us, he makes us new. He moves us step by step into the life he planned for us. He heals our wounds, even self-inflicted injuries. He clothes us in righteousness. God graciously moves us out of the stench and stagnation of the cemetery into the glory of an abundant life and purposeful calling.

He did it for Mob. And he’ll do it for us, too.

Dear God, I’ve spent enough time focusing on the mistakes in my past and the challenges of my future. I surrender my past, my present, and my future to you. Shape it according to your will. Bring healing, direction, and hope into my life. Thank you for your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Handling Life's Problems

Difficult People: They’re Everywhere

They’re at the supermarket, at work, at school. They’re in our families and in our churches. They’re even in the Bible. David had Saul. Nehemiah had Sanballat. Elijah had Jezebel.

Difficult people are everywhere.

If difficult people are a very real part of everyone’s life, how do we deal with them? How do we handle a person who annoys us, criticizes us, and drives us a little bit crazy?

Jesus probably dealt with more difficult people than any of us. The Jewish religious leaders were constantly angry with him. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied ever knowing him. Jesus had it so bad that after his very first sermon, people were so furious they wanted to throw him off a cliff (see Luke 4:28-30).

Here are three tips for dealing with difficult people in our lives the way Jesus dealt with the difficult people in his life:

  • Know who you are. Jesus knew who he was. In Matthew 3:17, God spoke these words about Jesus, “This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him.” Friend, we are a child of God. We are his beloved and favored. Let’s walk in that identity. What others may say or think about us isn’t important when we know who we are.
  • Know what God called you to do. From childhood, Jesus knew he had a purpose given to him by God. Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life in exchange for the salvation of many.” Negative, angry people didn’t flummox Jesus because he was focused on his calling and his purpose. We also have a God-given calling and purpose. We’re here to bring glory to God. Negative, angry, difficult people become less difficult when we keep our focus on our calling.
  • Look at difficult people through God’s eyes. People who frustrate us look different when we look at them through God’s eyes. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looked at a crowd with compassionate eyes: “When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’s heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd.” When Jesus looked at these people, he saw how tired they were, how powerless and weak they were, and how lost they were. Sometimes, the people who hurt us, who make us angry, and who seem determined to judge and criticize us are actually weary, weak, and lost. When we see them through God’s eyes, we become less annoyed and more compassionate.

The bottom line is to treat people, even the difficult ones, the way Jesus did—with love and compassion, with a steadfast determination to fulfill our purpose, and with a heart of prayer for those we find difficult. Isn’t that how we would want others to treat us?

Dear God, draw me closer to you. Give me such intense joy in the work you have for me to do that I’m not easily distracted. Bless those people in my life who frustrate me. Give me a heart of compassion and wisdom in dealing with difficult people. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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A New Identity

 “Jesus replied, ‘You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.’” (Matthew 16:17-18)

Reginald Kenneth Dwight changed his name to Elton John. Peter Gene Hernandez changed his name to Bruno Mars. Eric Marlon Bishop changed his name to Jamie Foxx. And Mark Sinclair Vincent became Vin Diesel.

It’s common for celebrities to change their name to further their career—no big deal. But in Matthew 16, Jesus himself changed Simon’s name, and when Jesus changes your name, it’s a very big deal. It isn’t just a change of name, it’s a change of identity.

Here’s the story. Jesus and the disciples were walking along one day, and Jesus asked them who people said he was. They said people thought Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other prophet. Then Jesus got to the heart of the question—who did the disciples think he was?

Simon quickly answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus told Simon that his answer came through a revelation from God. Simon didn’t figure it out for himself. He didn’t learn it from a friend or a rabbi. No, God himself revealed Jesus’s identity to Simon.

When we have a revelation of Jesus’s identity, it changes our identity. Revelation gives us mission, purpose, and confidence about who we are in Christ. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Simon was a fisherman, but Peter was a fisher of men. Simon lived a quiet life on the Sea of Galilee, but Peter possessed the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Simon was often unstable, but Peter was solid as a rock.

Peter’s identity, purpose, and mission was tied to his revelation of Jesus’s identity. In Ephesians 1:17, Paul prays for God to give all Christians everywhere a personal revelation of Christ so each of us can comprehend who Jesus is—savior, redeemer, healer, protector, provider. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is the beginning and the end. Jesus is the lion of Judah and the light of the world. Everything we could ever need is embodied in Jesus Christ.

We all need a personal revelation of the majesty and glory of Jesus. We need this revelation from God—not from our pastor or our parents, but straight from God. We need a revelation of Jesus’s virgin birth, his perfect life, the miracles he performed, and the passion of the cross. We need a revelation of the power that raised Jesus from the dead, the same supernatural power that  inhabits his followers.

When we really grasp the identity of Jesus, our identity changes. A revelation of Jesus shows us our purpose and our mission. If your revelation of Jesus has grown dim, pray for fresh anointing. Revelation is offered freely to everyone who seeks it.

Dear God, I ask you today to refresh my revelation of who Jesus really is. I know he is the son of the living God. I know Jesus paid the price for my forgiveness and my freedom. Immerse my identity, purpose, and mission in the identity of Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Nothing Lacking

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1)

Do you worry about not being enough? Strong enough. Successful enough. Patient enough. Smart enough. Do you sometimes feel you’re just not good enough? Our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy often cause us to question whether we’re enough.

The truth is, we’re not enough. We never will be. On our own, our best efforts shrivel up like an old leaf blown away by the wind (see Isaiah 64:6). We weren’t created to be enough on our own. We were created to be made complete by God. We can’t be a good enough parent, a good enough spouse, or even just a good enough person without God.

We’re not enough. But, with God…we are more than enough.

Moses worried that he wasn’t enough. God interrupted Moses’s ordinary day with a very extraordinary sight—a bush on fire that didn’t burn up!  God told Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. In spite of the burning bush and God’s clear direction, Moses argued with God: “I am not a great man! How can I be the one to go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).

Moses begged God to send someone else. He told God all the reasons he would fail in this mission, all the reasons he wasn’t enough.

God finally instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh that “I AM” sent him. Moses said, “I’m not enough.” But God said, “I AM.”

We’ve all felt inadequate at some point in our lives. And that’s OK. We don’t have to be adequate because our God is completely adequate. We don’t have to be strong because God is strong in our weakness. We don’t have to be smart because we have the mind of Christ. Anytime we say, “I’m not enough,” God says, “I AM.”

Colossians 2:10 says, “And because you belong to Christ you are complete, having everything you need…” We aren’t missing or lacking anything. We are complete. Christ in us is enough.

Still not sure? Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” God has everything we need. When we feel we aren’t enough, it is his great delight to give us what we need.

As a child of God, we never have to worry about coming up short or not being enough. Because of God’s grace, we are always enough.

Dear God, when my faults and inadequacies make me feel less than enough, help me remember your great love for me. Help me remember that any good thing I accomplish is because of the strength you give me and not of myself. Let me lean more on your power and less on my own. I know you will not leave me lacking. I know that when I am not enough, Christ in me is enough. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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The Enemy Knows Who You Are…Do You?

“…If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Sarah Connor: But I didn’t do anything.

Kyle Reese: No, but you will.

These words are from an old 80’s movie, The Terminator. If you’re thinking of watching it, we recommend you opt for a cleaned up version, but the premise of the movie illustrates something important about our identity.

In the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a murderous Cyborg from the future who traveled back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Kyle Reese traveled back to save Sarah’s life because, unknown to her, she had an important role to play in the future. Her son would one day save the human race.

Sarah finds it hard to believe and accept her identity as the mother of the man who will save the earth from the killer machines. Sarah tells Kyle, “Oh, come on. Do I look like the mother of the future? I mean, am I tough? Organized? I can’t even balance my checkbook.”

Sarah struggled to believe what Kyle said about her identity. She saw herself as a flighty, struggling waitress. She couldn’t picture herself in an important role. She didn’t think she was capable enough or gifted enough to really impact the world.

Though she didn’t know who she was, her enemy knew her real identity. He realized her significance. And because of that, he was on a mission to destroy her.

Each of us has an enemy on a mission to destroy us. That’s just a fact. He knows our real identity. He knows the power of a forgiven, born-again man or woman who embraces their identity as a child of God. He knows the tremendous impact of people who pray, share the gospel, and spread God’s love like crazy. He knows the vast potential of a confident Christian to impact the future. He knows it all too well.

He knows who you really are. But do you?

In her book, “Girls with Swords,” Lisa Bevere says: “Satan has made it his aim to distract you from who you really are and what the purpose of your life truly is. It is his focused objective to lure you off the path of strength, life, and authority and onto a course of intentional destruction.”

Satan’s primary weapon is to trick us into believing his lies—especially lies about who we are and why we’re here.

Hebrews 10:35 encourages us in our identity: “So don’t lose your bold, courageous faith, for you are destined for a great reward.” We are people of faith, courage, and destiny. A mistake, a failure, or a setback doesn’t change who we are.

If you ever wonder who you are and why you matter, here’s the answer: You are a highly valued, dearly loved child of the most-high God, anointed for a purpose and destined for victory.

Dear God, it’s hard to believe that the creator of the universe loves me personally and has purpose for my life. Help me walk in the power of your anointing, confident in my purpose. Protect me from the lies and tricks of the enemy. Keep my eyes focused on you so that I one day receive the reward you have waiting for me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Peel Off That Label

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

Many of us have a storage closet, garage, or attic filled with boxes. We may even label the boxes with words like, “Fragile,” “Old Clothes,” or “Books.” Labeling allows us to easily identify the box we need. It’s a helpful organizational tool. We sometimes label canisters, shelves, office drawers, or other things. Labels are a tool we use to categorize the complexity of our environment.

Sometimes we use labels as a short cut to categorize people. Labeling boxes is helpful, but labeling people is dangerous.

We may categorize people by personality, by achievement, by race, by religion, by appearance. And, often, our labels are wrong, hurtful, and damaging.

We see the effects of labels in our own lives. What labels have been placed on us? Loser. Failure. Addict. If we hear these words about ourselves enough, we begin to internalize them. We begin to believe the labels. For example, we may start to accept that we are just an angry person. We think, “I can’t help it. I’ve always had a bad temper. I might as well get used to it.”

And sometimes the hardest labels to shake are the ones we give ourselves.

Friend, you are not your labels. If you have asked Jesus to forgive your sins and given your life to him, the labels placed on you by the world are no longer your identity. Your past does not predict your future. And your present is not your ultimate destination.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” When we are saved, our old, sinful self was crucified, along with all of those false labels the enemy tried to put on us. We are not defined by those false labels, but by Christ living in us.

We look to God’s word for true labels. God’s word says we are:

  • Lavishly loved. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God…” (1 John 3:1)
  • Highly valued. “For God bought you with a high price…” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
  • Planned with purpose. “…Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The reality of God’s word completely supersedes the false labels we used to carry. When Christ is in our hearts, old labels no longer apply. It’s time to peel off those false labels and live out the truth of our identity in Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for me. Thank you for the price you paid for me and the future you have planned for me. Lord, sometimes I lose sight of who I am in you and accept labels the enemy wants to place on me. Today, I reject those labels. I know that I am who your word says I am. My identity is in you. Help me live out the purpose you have for my life and not to be limited by false labels. In Jesus’s name, amen.

How have labels affected your life? Share in the Reply section below.