Friday, April 27, 2012

Power of Identity

With the merciful you show yourself merciful; 
 with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 
 with the purified you show yourself pure; 
 and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. 
 (Psalm 18:25-26)

God reveals Himself according to who we are.

That is why embracing our true identity in Christ is critical in our walk with God.

I have known Jesus over 30 years, but I realize that I am still living out of my old self in many areas. For many years, having my share of disappointment in life, I have become convinced that nothing good ever happens to me. After all, life is full of disappointments, right? We cannot expect to get "everything we want" in life. Every time my hope was dashed over something I had been excited about, I would further solidify this belief that I am a man who will always be disappointed, a man to whom nothing good will ever happen.

Subtly that has deeply tainted how I experience God in my walk. My old self has resigned to be disappointed by God.

In contrast, to live out my true identity means to put off this old self of mine who has believed that he will always be disappointed by God and to put of the new self who embraces the goodness, grace and mercy of God who is our loving Father, faithful Provider and generous Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. In fact, my true identity, my new self also knows to put its hope in God that I may not lose heart in the face of life's disappointments.

The amazing thing is that since I began to live out of my true identity, I have experienced God differently. I am far more hopeful and peaceful. Even my life's circumstances are changing. Where it felt like a winter before, I now see the signs of spring.



Sunday, April 15, 2012

He Is Risen, Indeed!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we enjoyed one of the most amazingly beautiful spring days on Easter!

Like a sunny spring day, the cross and resurrection of Jesus have brought to our gloomy world the vibrant colors and fresh fragrance of His life.

Jesus’s offer is LIFE, His life in us, an abundant life with God, a life of adventurous faith that we are meant to live! This is life in the large story of God.

Our life bought with the blood of Christ is too precious to waste in small stories of our everyday existence.

Survive we all must. It is the curse of our fall. But if we do not rise above that, we will have wasted this amazing new life in Christ and failed to witness to the new reality Jesus brought into our world through His death and resurrection.

I met in Ethiopia brothers and sisters in Christ who have chosen to step into the large story of God - joining with Him in His mission and desiring to fulfill His purposes - instead of remaining in their everyday survival. I certainly am learning from their examples as they often face greater challenges than I do. The lack of resources does not stop them from taking their parts in God's story. Hardship of everyday living does not discourage them. Persecutions do not dissuade them.

At the end of my life, I would like to be remembered as one who "glorified you [God] on earth, having accomplished the work that you [God] gave me to do" (John 17:4) and who "served the purpose of God in his own generation" (Acts 13:36).

With His life in us, it is possible to live like that.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Passion

Passion comes from the old Latin word that means "suffering" or "enduring".

Passion of the Christ, therefore, refers to the sufferings of Jesus. After the last supper with his disciples, Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed by Judas. He was subjected to a mock trial, beaten, scourged and crucified.

Jesus suffered out of love. To love is to risk suffering. We cannot separate the two. It is interesting that the English word, passion, has had these two meanings - suffering and ardent love.

It is better to love fully with all your heart even at the risk of enduring deep pains than to shy away from love in order to make sure to avoid suffering. Jesus chose the former. He loved us well and suffered greatly for it. The cross is the symbol of this suffering love. It hurts to love fiercely.

I have shied away from such love for some years. I didn't even realize what my heart was doing until a few years ago when I began to experience afresh fierce love. Then I realized how painful it was to love fully and love well. The pains were often unbearable. I did entertain the thought that it would have been easier and less hurtful if I didn't love so deeply.

But I am older and a bit wiser.

I choose to love fiercely and gladly suffer for it. Jesus said to carry our cross daily and follow him. Perhaps, to love with all our heart is to carry our cross.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Apostle University Training Part 4

Our training is designed to help believers see their true and unique identity they now have in Christ. As "basic" as the truth of our identity in Christ is, absolutely staggering is to consider the full meaning and implications of being the restored image-bearer of the most beautiful and majestic Being, God the Creator!

Who we are, therefore, is inseparably related to who God is. In fact, the loftier and more exalted view of God we develop, the higher view of man we will have to embrace.

Yet You have made him a alittle lower than God [Elohim], And You crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:5, NASB95)

To be honest, I was a bit surprised at how the university students responded to our training in February. I had thought that they would have had a strong sense of their identity in Christ in order for them to remain so strong in their faith and zealous for the Lord in the midst of many trials and challenges many of these students had to face. But the training subject proved to be a critical one for all the student leaders. God deeply touched their hearts, speaking the truth about who they are in Christ.

Knowing who God is and understanding who we are in Christ are probably the two most important aspects of our Christian journey.

In fact, many of the Pauline letters begin with who God is and what Jesus has done. Then Paul reminds his readers of who they are in Christ as the result of His work. "Therefore", the half way through his writing, he finally transitions into how the believers are to conduct themselves because of and based on who they are in Him as a new creation and new self.

The Ethiopian college students we ministered to knew what their mission was - helping fulfill the Great Commission in their generation in Ethiopia. Now they know who they are that are called by God to serve Him. It's a powerful combination!