Who Do You Think You Are?

As believers we need to discover who we really are in Christ. And, I don’t just mean rhyming off a bible verse or two … “I am an ambassador of Christ,” “I am a minister of reconciliation,” I am a new creature in Christ” (see 2 Corinthians 5). It’s all head knowledge and simple information unless it has become a reality in your life. Changes your life. Makes you live big!

As we saw the last time (Blog: Don’t Fence Me In – Blog for March 13, 2020) we can live small when we are really meant to live big, powerful, expansive lives.

We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”

Let’s list how internal smallness affects you…

        • It causes us to be self-conscious
        • It cause us to be slow to compliment and encourage others
        • It keeps us from responding to others – not expressing thoughts and feelings
        • It cause us to be slow to celebrate the wins of others
        • It causes us to be very poor conversationalists
        • It means we will speak out of our insecurity and wound others
        • It means we will be be very poor listeners as we talk too much to hide our insecurities and smallness
        • It causes us to engage in petty and negative conversations where people complain, gossip, and criticize
        • It causes us to be envious of other people’s success
        • It causes us to shrink ourselves to stay as small a target as possible so the world won’t shoot us down
        • It causes us to pass up opportunities to contribute – being careful not to put ourselves out there where we risk saying the wrong thing or having our ideas rejected by others
        • It causes us to take things too personally
        • It causes us to assume the worst in people or about people
        • It cause us to put the focus on what we want to avoid – pain, confrontation, and embarrassment – instead of what we want to accomplish
        • It causes us to let criticism lay us low rather than help us grow
        • It causes us to be inhibited to love out loud – not free to say love, show love, or feel love
        • It causes us to turn inward, shut down, and withdraw emotionally
        • It causes us to make excuses rather than owning our choices, our moods, and our behaviour

I’m sure when you look at this list, at least some of these are habits that feel harmless right now in your own life. You are so intent on being comfortable in the moment that you are willing to overlook the consequences in the future. That is sad! That’s thinking small and living small. It is not living openly and expansively. 

When you look around you for people who model bigness, it’s not always easy to differentiate between those who appear to be big on the inside and those who actually are. Being big on the inside is not the same as being popular, being wealthy, or having a big, outgoing personality. In fact, some of the most popular, wealthy, and big-personality people are small inside. Once you get past the outer layer of their positions and persona, you often see their internal struggle with smallness. You start to see glimpses of their struggle with insecurity. You start to hear about who bothers them, what worries them, what they dread most, what irritates them, and what triggers a bad mood or even a paranoia of some kind. They can be petty, have issues with other people, carry grudges from the past, and have a hard time celebrating the success of others.,

On the other hand, there are people who are just the opposite. When you first look at them, you see them as pretty average. They don’t have big personalities; they are not loud or the center of attention. The more you get to know them, the more you start to see glimpses of unusual confidence and courage. You start to realize how positive they are in their conversations. They think well of others. They believe the best about the future. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They are uncomplicated, have a genuine love for life, and are comfortable putting themselves out there as if they have nothing to lose. 

So, who do you think you are? And, how do others see you? Something to ponder.

Don’t Fence Me In

A year or two before I was born a song was written that was sung by many and made famous by Roy Rogers, the Singing Cowboy. If you are not familiar with the song – click here for a copy of it recorded by Bing Crosby …    https://youtu.be/vMnLoOnrwbg

I was particularly struck by the title that has stuck with me for decades …”Don’t Fence Me In.” As I was recently reading 2 Corinthians 6:12-13 in The Message version again this phrase caught my attention …

We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”

And, if you search a little bit you will find that a former prime minister of Israel is quoted as saying: “Life is too short to be little.” (Benjamin Disraeli)

As believers we should feel confident in the love that God has shown us in His Son Jesus. And this confidence in His love, acceptance, and forgiveness should be the foundation upon which we build and live life. And, this life should be wide open and vulnerable because we have experienced and know the love of God. We should live transparent and be open and vulnerable; living without fear of criticism and rejection. As Paul states, “If God is for us (and He is), then what does it matter who is against us.” 

So, I can live fearlessly not allowing fear to fence me in. I can override past disappointments so they do not prevent me from obtaining today’s possibilities. I can see over the fence and realize that everything is working together for my good. I can refuse to be petty and insist that I look for the good in everything and ever one. Not being fenced in allows me to embrace the people who love me, stick with me, encourage me, and are there for me. I am reminded that these relationships are priceless and are the result of pressing in to people, believing in people, loving people, taking risks in relationships, and being open to the possibility of friendship and relationship. None of which happens when I am fenced in by my past, by shame, by fear or by __________________ (you fill in the blank). 

When I take the time and make the effort to remove my fences, without exception I always look back with gratitude that I did so. Regardless of how things turn out, I always feel a sense of fulfillment knowing that I gave it my best and didn’t play it safe staying behind the fence and wearing a mask (refusing to be the real me before others). This allows me, as well, to keep living in the confidence that God provides through His promises and presence in my life.

Living outside the fence in the fullness of who we are releases us to bless others. It allows you to give yourself permission to speak up, to help out, to take you to new places of faith and confidence that you have never experienced before because you lived life behind the fence – fenced in by your insecurities, past experiences, the pain you have encountered, and the failures and rejection you have experienced. Now you are free of the fences and can become aware of your untapped possibilities, untrained talent, and underdeveloped strengths. 

So, listen again, to Paul’s words…

We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!”

Grab hold of the truths…

      • No one has fenced you in – if there are fences it is because you built them
      • God does not build fences to contain and control you
      • If you are living ‘small’ it is because you choose to (it comes from within)
      • Your were not made to be small or insignificant – you are not small as a person but you have chosen to ‘live small’
      • You have a choice to open your life and live fully being vulnerable and transparent
      • If you chose to live freely then it means you live openly and expansively

Time to remove the fences and make “Don’t Fence Me In” your theme song for this season in your life. 

Life Is About a Cause, Not the Applause

I have discovered that life is best when comfort is not the goal, hesitation is not your habit, and complacency is your enemy. If you are going to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1) and enter into the fullness of the adventure Jesus has planned for you then comfort is not something to seek, hesitation becomes an enemy, and complacency can have no place in your daily life. 

Life is about responding to the opportunities, joining the team, being all in on the mission. It’s about leaving the cheap seats, getting out of the bleachers, and heading for the field. And doing so now!

Life is about getting involved in the cause of Jesus. It’s raising your hands to volunteer at church, serve in your community, and live to make a difference. Life is about the cause, not the applause.

I just read this recently in a book that I was recently handed…

On April 23, 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech titled “The Man in the Aren.” It would become one of the most widely quoted speeches of his career. 

“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” he said. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness.” 

His message was inspirational and passionate. He went on today:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood: who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

In much the same way, our lives are filled with God-given opportunities that deserve to be met with an uninhibited display of openness and readiness. In order to live fully free, here’s what you have to know with absolute certainty and complete confidence: You have to embrace the life that God gave you and engage with it and do so with all of your being to be fully alive and fulfilled. 

There Is Only One You!

There is only one you. God can’t bless who you pretend to be. However, many of us have learned to wear a number of hats as we fill a number of roles in life. And the right ‘hat’ allows us to fit in to a social group or a gang of friends. 

Right from the start when we are born we are unashamedly real and are just who we are. We are not self-conscious and really don’t care what others think about us. We don’t wear ‘hats’ pretending to be someone we are not.

But, as we grow older and start school we have officially become self-conscious. We start to wonder what other people think about us. That’s where we start wearing different ‘hats’. It begins as an effort to either conform to or reject the social norms and expectations of those around us. We dress a certain way; we act a certain way; we like this but not that … all determined by social norms and the expectations of others. In the midst of this, we forget who we really are as we become who others want us or need us to be. And, as a result the real you often gets lost and even buried because of the ‘hats.’

The “hats” we wear help us maintain dignity in social settings and relational environments. But the “hats” can also separate us from our unique and authentic self.

One reason so many people struggle to know who they are meant to be is that they have spent all their life being who they are supposed to be. All their life they have tried to measure up to the expectations of those around them. Most of us have a whole bunch of hats that we have worn at one time or another in an attempt to fit in, follow protocol, and meet expectations. And, as a result we end up being someone we are not!

When our ‘hats’ start to dictate the choices we make, the freedom we have, the joy we feel, and the expressions we give, that’s when the ‘hats’ have to come off.

When a ‘hat’ gets in the way of us connecting and doing life in community, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ causes us to confuse who others say we have to be with who we are meant to be, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ hinders us from putting our whole heart into serving God, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ causes us to withdraw into observation versus a life of participation, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ causes us to close up or shut down emotionally, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ keeps us from having fun and enjoying life, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ makes us self-conscious and afraid of what people are saying and thinking about us, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ stops us from expressing our love for God, family, and friends, it has to come off. 

When a ‘hat’ becomes our cover-up for past pain that God wants to heal, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ makes us shrink back from opportunities, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ makes us unapproachable, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ turns us into a poser or a pretender, it has to come off.

When a ‘hat’ causes pride and disconnects us from the people God connected us with, it has to come off. 

We don’t take our ‘hat’ off because it makes us feel safe and secure. It allows us to fit in even when we really don’t care to fit in. But, if the ‘hat’ you are wearing and that defines you is not the real you then relationships remain shallow, intimacy is impossible, freedom from fear is never experienced, God’s purpose is not fulfilled, your potential is never discovered, and your best life is never lived. 

Time to take the ‘hat’ off. There is only one you!

Act In Faith

Here is a truth to remember: You can’t play it safe and act in faith at the same time.

At a meeting of church leaders in the late 1700’s, a newly ordained minister stood to argue for the value of overseas missions. He was abruptly interrupted by an older minister who said, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”

The reason that attitude is inconceivable today is largely due to the subsequent efforts of that young man, William Carey. Carey worked in various jobs to support his family while he continued to educate himself, even teaching himself New Testament Greek. In 1792 he organized a missionary society, and at the first gathering he preached a sermon with the call: ”Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Within a year, Carey, his family, and some like-minded daring people were on a ship headed for India.

In many ways, Carey was a catalyst for change, helping to inspire a big-thinking, risk-taking, faith-filled approach to modern missions. He served the rest of his life in India at a time where there was no modern travel or communication systems. He was a minister, a translator, social reformer and cultural anthropologist who founded the Serampore College and the Serampore University, the first degree-awarding university in India. Carey even translated the Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit. He also translated parts of it into twenty-nine other languages and dialects. He helped educate horticulturists, which raised the quality and productivity of the nation’s agricultural industry. His life was a living, breathing example that big things happen when we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.

Our tendency is to make decisions that we are comfortable with, to play it safe and do only what we feel is rational. But God has called us to acts of faith. We’re not meant to spend our lives as mere observes and spectators who hang out in the bleachers and offer commentary as world everts play out in front of us. We’re here to engage potential, explore possibilities, and act in faith. 

Scripture tells us, “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Hebrews 10:39). If you’re a Jesus follower, this applies to everything God has for you. When you have challenges, setbacks, even failures and mess-ups, you are not meant to be like those who shrink back. No, you are meant to take on the challenge and push through resistance that tries to contain you.

God has something for you to do for Him and needs you to keep walking by faith. Remind yourself that big things happen when you act in faith. Keep going big. Keep believing in what you don’t see. Pray bold prayers. Your life story will be dramatically different with acts of faith. Doors will open that would otherwise stay closed. Relationships with like-minded people and God-assigned connections will happen that would have otherwise never happened. When you live out of faith and not in fear, you will accomplish more, experience greater fulfillment, and leave a lasting legacy. 

Rather than seeing a need, you may start to see the opportunity. Rather than just thinking, Why doesn’t someone do something?, You may find yourself saying, I’m going to do something. 

Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. You won’t regret it!


Playing It Safe

Because we have all been hurt by others at one time or another we tend to “play it safe.” You don’t let people get too close to you again. Or, you keep your conversations superficial, sharing little to nothing of your personal or private life. We do whatever it takes to protect ourselves from being hurt again and so play it ‘safe,’ whatever that looks like in your life currently. The interesting thing is that when we do this, it seems that it rarely occurs to us that there are some very real dangers in playing it safe as well. 

Helen Keller said, “Avoiding danger in the long run is no safer than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” 

This logic is counterintuitive to most, if not all people – most believing that avoiding danger is safer than outright exposure. So, they avoid risk no matter the cost. What I am saying is that avoiding risk is not a less dangerous approach to life than taking risks. Avoiding risks has it own horrific consequences that most people are less aware of because they don’t appear in the media reports and are not talked about nearly as much.

Playing it safe is the ultimate attempt at self-preservation. It passes up the opportunity to have an incredibly meaningful life in exchange for mere existence. The sure way to look back in the future with massive regret is to pay it safe, be guarded, be suspicious of people who are friendly, assume the worst, and refuse to take chances. Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.” That’s a big thing thing for a guy whose life was filled with lots of mischief and adventure to admit.

When you play it safe, you pass up the opportunity to have the conversations that could have changed your life and someone else’s. When you play it safe, you never discover or know what is possible. When you play it safe, you lack passion for life, other people don’t feel your love, your potential is not discovered, and God’s purpose for you goes unfulfilled.

There’s a story in the Old Testament about four lepers in Samaria in a time of famine. The only food source was in the neighbouring community, where food was stockpiled by their enemy. These lepers were starving to death. They had every reason to believe that the enemy would not give them food and would kill them if they made any attempt to enter enemy territory. That’s when one of the lepers did a risk assessment. He began to question the sanity of staying where they were and certainly dying versus taking the risk of going to the neighbouring city in hopes of finding food.

“Why stay here until we die?” He asked (2 Kings 7:3). He wasn’t being irrational. He was pointing out the danger of playing it safe. He was saying, It may be risky to walk towards our enemy, but at least there is a potential for a better life than we’ll have here if we stay where we are.”

It’s true for us as well. The dangerous consequences of playing it safe may be less obvious, but they pose a greater threat in the end. The dangers aren’t sudden and dramatic. They develop slowly over time and can be difficult to identify, which is what makes playing it safe more dangerous than the high-profile missteps we hear about or see in the news. Like a slow leak in a tire, the dangers of playing it safe aren’t something we see or feel on a daily basis. We become aware of them only when we realize we’re stuck and wondering how it happened. That’s when we take note of the bigger picture and realize that playing it safe isn’t as safe as it appears to be.

What I love about the story of the four lepers is that heaven suddenly backed them up when they finally make their gutsy move to stand on their feet and begin walking in the direction of the food. When they headed into enemy territory, God caused the enemy to hear loud, thunder like noises, which they thought were the chariots and horses of an army coming to attack them. The enemy fled for their lives, leaving behind everything, including the food that they had stockpiled. The four lepers walked into the city and found it vacated and filled with plenty of food, not only for themselves but also for the people of Israel. 

This is what happens when we have the courage to not stay where we are or as we are even if it means risking failure. Acts of faith always attract God’s attention and cause Him to move mightily on our behalf. This doesn’t happen when we sit in safe places. It only happens when we dare to move in the direction of our dreams. 

Anywhere, God. Anytime. Whatever You Want?

I believe it is time to change the way we pray. 

Most of our prayer are self-centered and self-focused requests. You know. You have prayed them too. Prayers like, “Do this for me, God. Help me, Lord.” We often have this ‘shopping list’ of prayer requests that we take before God and repeat day-after-day and week-after-week. We often sound like a broken record, I am sure. But we continue to pray in this manner in spite of the Lord’s comment that we are not to constantly repeat ourselves like the pagans.

Matthew 6:7 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

I believe we need to turn things around and begin to pray Christ-centered prayers. Gospel-powered prayers. God-glorifying prayers. Where we tell God that we are willing to do whatever He asks of us and go wherever He might send us. It starts with us saying, “Anywhere, God. Anytime., Whatever you want. I’m yours. I’m available.”

When I was born again I remember waking up the next morning and telling God that no matter what He asked me to do or where He asked me to go the answer would always be “yes.” In other words, even before I knew the question or the request, He could count on me to say “yes” to whatever He asked me to do. I believe this is basic and foundational to all that I have had to honour to do for Him and all the places I have been to speak and minister.

In reality, we need to recognize that He is God and we are not. He is the Leader and we are not. So, when we go to spend time with Him we need to listen before we speak. Let Him speak first. In other words, learn to listen. Then after He has spoken we respond to what He has said. We “pray” in line with what we have heard. In this way we are praying His will and not ours. We are working with His plan and purpose and not asking Him to bless our plans. We are praying according to His Word and His will. And, when we do that, we are promised that He hears us and answers our prayers. Of course He does, He initiated the conversation and brought up the topic.

1 John 5:14-15 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

If this is true and we let Him initiate and thus we are responding … then there should be no such thing as unanswered prayer. 

If this is true then there would be no such thing as bored believers.

If this is true then all believers should be engaged in ministry and walking in the center of God’s will for their day and even for their life.

If this is true then the Christian faith should be the greatest adventure any human being could ever desire to be on. It should be fun (Yes, I said ‘fun’) and challenging.

If this is true then we should be touching lives for Jesus on a daily basis and seeing His power transform not only individuals but communities and our society.

If this is true then prayer in itself should be exciting and always alive, electric, life-giving, dynamic, powerful, and fun. Yes, even fun!

So, I believe that for many disciples it is time to change the way we pray. 

We should learn to sit down shut up, and listen. And, when God speaks  – and believe me Hie will – we can then respond to what He has spoken. Then as we pray in line with what He has revealed we can become involved in seeing His plans and purposes for the day come to pass. 

Now, tell me that won’t be exciting. 

Not Exactly the Avengers

In spite of the fact that I travel internationally and minister to individuals and large crowds; regular believers and leaders; non-Christians and people of many faiths … I often feel inadequate or unqualified. When that happens I remember that God called Moses, a murderer. And that He called David, an adulterer. And Rahab, a prostitute. Not only did God call people who did really bad things, but He also called unusual, insecure, and inconsistent people.

Just consider some of God’s chosen messengers, ministers, prophets, and leaders. There’s Noah, who got drunk; Isaac, who was a daydreamer; Joseph, who was abandoned; and Gideon, who was afraid. There’s Jeremiah, who was too young, and Abraham, who was too old. Elijah, who battled depression. Naomi, who became bitter. Martha, who was a worrywart. And John the Baptist, who ate bugs.

Not exactly the Avengers, these folks. A far cry from any collection of super-saints. But still God called the and used them even though they were far from perfect.

God has not changed. The same God who called imperfect people still does. Now He’s calling you. Inviting you, nudging you, pulling you. God’s call prompts you to live beyond yourself,, to not just be about your own comfort but to completely surrender to His call and bidding. To go. To serve. To build. To love. To fight. To pray. To give. To lead. 

So how do you respond when God calls you? In the Old Testament we see at least three different responses. 

1> The prophet Jonah represents one of the most common responses: “Here I am, Lord, but I’n not going.”

When the God of the universe saw a need in the city of Nineveh, He chose Jonah to go preach to the sinful and rebellious people there. Now Jonah had the gifts. He had the power. He had the ability. The problem is that he didn’t have the availability. Jonah wasn’t willing and flat-out told God, “No.” And please understand, when God spoke, his assignment was clear: “Go to the city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:2)

Jonah could have said, “Yes, anything for You, God. You are my Lord, and I will do what you ask.” But that didn’t happen. Instead of a willing heart, Jonah balked. He didn’t just hesitate or make excuses; he ran away from God (see Jonah 1:3). And I have to wonder, did Jonah really think he could go far enough away? Or was it just a case of cultivating moment-by-moment denial to avoid the truth and the call of God on his life? Putting your head in the sand, or in Jonah’s case, in the belly of a big fish. Trying to pretend – hoping – that God will just go away. Or change His mind about what He’s called you to do.

Have you ever responded this way?

2> The leader Moses also responded as some of us do still today

The second response to God’s call may not be as outwardly rebellious, but it’s just as dangerous to our spiritual health. When God saw the oppressive power of Pharaoh to God’s chosen people, He called Moses. God said, “So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10). Couldn’t be clearer, right? God said, “I’m sending you! Now go! Out of all the people alive today, you’re the one I selected. You’re the one I called. You have what it takes. I’m sending you.”

But Moses has a different response than Jonah. Instead of living in the confidence of God’s calling, Moses was buried in his own insecurities. When God called His chosen vessel, Moses respond, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11). Then Moses quickly told God all the reasons that he wasn’t the right person. “I’m not a good speaker. I stutter. I’m not good enough. Someone else would be way better than me.”

We still do this today.  When God prompts us to do something, we’re tempted to tell Him all the reasons we aren’t His best person for the task. We don’t know enough. We aren’t talented enough. We aren’t good enough. There are so many others better qualified for this than us. “Here I am, God but send someone else.”

3> The third response is, “Here am I, send me.”

This third response is the one that God wants to hear from us. This one isn’t just a statement to God, it is a prayer from the heart. It’s dangerous. It’s not a safe, benign, or self-centered prayer. This prayer requires great faith. It’s risky because it will almost always move you to action. It will probably lead you to do something that may not seem natural or easy. It will cause you to step out of your comfort zone.

Isaiah prayed such a prayer of unreserved availability in the presence of God. The Old Testament prophet retells of his encounter with the Holy One when God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a) And without knowing the details, without knowing when or where, Isaiah prayer this stunning, life-altering prayer: “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8b).

Isaiah was not a super-saint nor a member of an earlier Avengers team. He was just an ordinary person willing to give his all to God. 

Where do you stand today? As a Jonah? As a Moses? Or as a Isaiah?

God Is So Good

In all the years that I have known, worshipped, and served the living God He has been faithful and totally trustworthy. And, this morning I was simply reflecting on that fact. It is not just some theory or theology that I believe. It is a fact. God is faithful and trustworthy. Or, as the chorus believers sing states: “God is so good and He is good all the time.”

Here are my thoughts for the day. When we see how good God is, we become acutely aware of how good we are not. His holiness reveals our sinfulness. This is what happened to Isaiah, and this is what happens to us in God’s presence. (See Isaiah 6:1-5)

When the prophet saw the glory of God, he didn’t cry out, “I am amazing. I’m holy and perfect like God.” No, Isaiah recognized the depths of his own depravity and shouted, “Woe to me! … I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Isaiah didn’t just say, “I messed up. I did a few bad things.” He cried from a heart of despair, “Woe to me!” The awareness of the depths of his sin brought sadness, remorse, grief, and a spirit of sincere repentance. In God’s presence, Isaiah said, “I’m ruined.” Another version translates the original Hebrew text as “I’m undone.”

In a similar response, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look upon God (Exodus 3:6). Job said he despised or abhorred himself when he saw the power of God (Job 42:6). Peter fell facedown at the Lord’s feet and told Jesus to depart from him because of his sinfulness (Luke 5:8). None of us are any better than Moses, Job, or Peter. And some of us even had similar experiences when we prayed to God for salvation. Even if you didn’t fall facedown, giving your life to Jesus begins with an awareness of your need for salvation from sin.

But why do we need to recognize our sin? Can’t we just start following Jesus and move on? What’s the big deal about looking at how selfish and rebellious we are? Because until we see ourselves as sinners, we’ll never fully understand Jesus as the Saviour. 

For years, I tried to rationalize my own sinfulness, even after I became a follower of God. After all, I knew people who were way worse than I was. I never murdered anyone. I wasn’t a gang member or an abuser. But when I started my journey of coming to know – really know – God … crying out to God and getting to really know who He was and is. When I started asking the Holy Spirit to bring revelation to my heart and mind – revealing the One True God to me and removing all religious understanding and ideas of God … Wow! My self-confidence grew into self-awareness. God is righteous. I’m unrighteous. God is full of glory. I’m full of myself. I had to face the brutal truth about my selfishness. I was selfish. I often told lies, and occasionally I took things that were not mine. I envied others, lusted, and wanted the shiny things this world offered.

But when you really come to know the One True God – the Living God – who was fully revealed in Jesus then we come to see and know our true self. When we see God for who He really is it changes everything. Isiah saw it. Maybe you will too. When the angelic beings sang of the holiness of God, Isaiah knew his own lips were sinful and unclean. We see our sinfulness in full only when we embrace God’s holiness. As long as we compare ourselves with other people, we can deceive ourselves that we are not bad. But when we compare ourselves to God, we see just how unrighteous we truly are. Like Isaiah, as I experienced the presence of God, I became truly aware of the depth of my sin. This awareness then led me to a fuller understanding of God’s amazing grace.

Fascinating Insights

 The Word of God is active and alive (Hebrews 4:12) and ministers to us as we read it. The Holy Spirit brings fresh insights and new understanding to familiar verses as we faithfully read the Word every day. Recently I have been noting things as I read. Things that I had never noticed or thought about before. Fresh understanding. New insights.

Example: Jesus chose faith over family. Jesus puts allegiance to His blood above allegiance to familial blood. We, of course, see this in the following Scriptures:

Matthew 10:34-39 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Then I was reading the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and made a link to these well known verses quoted above.

The most poignant picture of Jesus Himself choosing faith over family was when He hung on the cross and told John, His disciple, rather than James, His half brother, to take care of Mary His mother. Roman Catholics believe that James was Jesus’ cousin instead of half brother, but the principle is still the same: Jesus chooses the faithful disciple over the nearest blood relative to take care of His mother. John 7:5 paints James as an unbeliever during Jesus’ lifetime, something that changed radically when Jesus visited James following the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). Jude, another half brother (or cousin), also became a believer and wrote a letter in the New Testament that bears his name. So there were at least two male near relatives that Jesus could have charged to care for His widowed mother. Instead, Jesus chose a man of faith over a blood relative.

We live in an era in the Church where family loyalty Is sometimes presented as the highest loyalty, but that doesn’t square with either Jesus’ teaching or practice. 

Luke 14:26-27 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

The word “hate” here is a comparison word. It doesn’t mean you emotionally hate (bear ill will towards) your relatives. It means that in comparison to your loyalty to Jesus, someone watching you would see that there’s not even a contest. Your love for Jesus and commitment to His work are so strong that no one, not even your closest relative, can pull you away from your true allegiance. You are going to go with Jesus every time. 

When Jesus was out ministering, He didn’t allow family drama to distract Him. On one occasion, He is interrupted by a family visit and seems almost harsh in his indifference. It’s not that Jesus is apathetic toward His family; it’s that He is passionate about His mission:

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)

Another way of looking at this is that Jesus valued spending time with the “reliable people” —His followers, eager disciples, and earnest listeners — over blood relatives, some of whom (prior to His resurrection) seemed to have doubts. And who knows? Perhaps Jesus’ willingness to walk away from His family while they resisted Him opened the door to their walking towards Him following the resurrection.

Our closest ties aren’t to our blood family; they’re to our faith family — those who do “the will of My Father in heaven.” If those are the true brothers and sisters of Jesus, they must become our closest siblings as well. This means that if our blood relatives are not believers we will be closer to our faith family members while still loving – not hating – our original family members.  

Just a fresh insight from my walk with the Word!