Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful for Mary at Christmas

Thankful for Mary at Christmas

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38 ESV)

Do you ever stop to think about the people's whose shoulders you stand on? Even in the mundane, there is much one might learn. Just think of driving. Thank You, Lord, for the innovations of Henry Ford! Ford didn't invent the automobile –he stood on someone else's shoulders!-- but Ford did make cars possible for the masses. However, who made roads available for the masses?

From stone paved roads, thousands of years old, in Ur, which is modern day Iraq, to the ancient timber roads discovered in Glastonbury, England to the modern tarred roads which were the result of the work of two Scottish engineers, Thomas Telford and John Loudon McAdam, we see discovery and growth that today allows us to go far and go fast.

There is a popular rumor that links Adolf Hitler to the invention of Germany's autobahn, which added inspiration to American interstates and super-highways the world over. No one wants to think they stand on the shoulders of Hitler, do they? So, here's the rest of the story...

While it's true Hitler, and his regime, fully embraced the idea of a national freeway system, the idea was born during the days when Germany was ruled by the Weimar Republic. Why, even here in the United States, the Federal Aid Roads Act of 1916 started the process of connecting roads nationally. Of course, through the 20s, 30s and 40s, the United States grew at an amazing rate, so it wasn't until the 1950's that our federal government was able to put forth the tangible interstate system we now enjoy. So, rest easy, Hitler didn't build I-40, nor was it his idea.

Still, the idea that I can get from my driveway down to my beloved uncle's house in Wilmington in under three hours has something to do with Dwight Eisenhower's leadership in building the interstate system and Henry Ford's mass production of automobiles.

What has any of this to do with Light Steps or Thanksgiving or Christmas or Mary or anything?

Good question; it's important to think about whose shoulders we stand on, and to be thankful. Today, thank God for Mary, mother of Jesus. Thank God for using this woman to be a vessel, yes, but, for me, the larger part of my thankfulness is due to Mary's example.

What would you do if God (1) sent an angel to speak with you and (2) told you that you'd become pregnant AND remain a virgin and (3) that baby would be the Savior of the world? I think I would have keeled over in fright.

Mary is afraid, yes, but she asked, “How will this be?” Already, I am encouraged by Mary's faith. She didn't recoil at God's prediction, but did question God's methodology. Praise God, and thank God, for the example of Mary's faith! Thank You, Father, that Mary shows that I can believe in You and still ask questions.

Further, I stand on the shoulders of Mary's beautiful surrender; she said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Ah! that I might live this way, day by day, whatever God might ask of me and for everything He does require of me!

Like the roadways, I can travel the journey of faith, in part, because of all the saints gone on before me. They have shown me faith and surrender by their examples.


For all that God has done, and for all that have embraced His call and commands, this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I am thankful, humbled and encouraged. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

In the quiet...

In the quiet...
In a recent article from "The Weekly Standard", Joseph Epstein writes an inquest entitled "What Ever Happened to High Culture." Frankly, I don't know that I care what happened to high culture; I mostly
find it the interest of elitist who claim things have culture simply to have something to make them feel they are different than the bourgeois. (Of course, the living-with-a-chip-on-their-shoulder middle class, in turn, calls the monetary elite "bourgeoisie", so what do I know about culture on any level? Or any form of the word "bourgeois"?)
I digress. In Epstein's article, there was an extremely gripping quote; Epstein said, "The acquisition of culture requires repose, sitting quietly in a room with a book, or alone with one's thoughts even at a crowded concert or art museum. Ours is distinctly not an age of repose. Thy rhythm of our time is jumpy."
See that? Does it grip you?
It grips me.
It grips me, not because I care about high culture, but because I care about culturing from on high. I care about the saints of God engaging with God with the expectation of God culturing the inner man. In that regard, Epstein's idea about acquiring high culture is also true of culturing the inner man. It requires repose, or something like that.
It requires quiet. It requires thought. It requires reflection. It requires articulation. It requires abiding. It requires stillness. Frankly, the sort of repose one needs to pursue inner culturing is difficult in the jumpy rhythm of our times. We have trained our senses to count as normal multiple things going on at once --many screens, many voices, many directions, much stimulus-- to the point that if we are not stimulated in every sense simultaneously, we often think there is something wrong; something missing.
Well, I call that hogwash.
Even Jesus went alone to pray! (see Luke 5:16, Mark 1:35 or Matthew 14:33 for examples)
Jumpy rhythm; that's a good way to put it. We need quiet. We need solitude --yes, that means time alone. We need to think. We need the discipline of consideration. We need the blessing of meditation. We need repose.
Mind you, this is not mere leisure. It's not finding some other thing to do; another stimuli from the world's storehouse of distraction ingredients.
I know, I know, it feels counter-intuitive to hear me say "slow down" in our fast paced culture, but don't hear me saying "slow down"; hear me saying go strong toward the right things. Be fast in running to quietness with the Lord.
Learn to contemplate.
Learn to digest a passage of Scripture.
Learn to long for God in prayer.
Learn to listen for God in the stillness.
It's not high culture our spirits yearn for, but the Most High God. It requires repose, and may we all love it. May we all learn that quality of coming apart with God, no matter where we are or how many people are around us, that we might hear Him amid the din of life's jumpy rhythm.
Consider this reading, beloved friends:
"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. 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. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 119:97, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 19:14, Psalm 119:15, Psalm 104:34, Philippians 4:8, Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Vow taking



Vow breaking... Vow breaking is a serious matter. Some people have made vows privately, some publicly and some have only been whispered in the silent halls of our hearts. Either way, God hears all of our vows. As a matter of fact, the Apostle James said vow taking did not need to be made on anything to be binding; in other words, one does not need to "swear to God" for that vow to be sacred. One's word is enough, but, by whatever we swear, we shall be held strictly to it. James said, "But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned." (James 5:12 NLT) I believe James was reminding his readers of Jesus's teaching concerning the matter: "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil." (Matthew 5:33-37 ESV) In other words, be a person of honor who keeps your word. Give vows cautiously, after much thought. Make promises carefully; thoughtfully. IF we swear by heaven, we "swear" by God's throne room, and that most certainly is ground for much caution and care. The real heart of Jesus's teaching was to be such an honest and honorable person that we do not have to invoke God's name to be believed. The side lesson: be careful what you vow to who and by what cause.

There's plenty more to be said on the subject! Consider Solomon's words: "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear." (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 ESV)

The warning here is clear; be careful not to utter rash words or to make hasty commitments and to be careful to understand what you are saying on holy ground (and, I might contend, being as God is omnipresent, every place lays open before His
presence).

Someone might be thinking, "I will just never promise anything to anyone!" It's not that simple. We are often called to give our word! The warning is simple, be careful what you promise because you'll be held to your word by the Lord. Moses said, "If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth." (Deuteronomy 23:21-23 ESV)

Moses also said, "If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." (Numbers 30:2 ESV) In this case, vows have to do with what we promise TO DO and a pledge has to do with what we promise NOT TO DO.

Think about how your walk with Jesus began... Are you keeping those vows? Did you ask God to help you in some way and make a promise to Him the process? Are you keeping your word?

Married? Did you make vows? Sure you did. How is that going? Did you promise to work hard for your employer? How is that progressing?

Did you promise anything to and through your local church? Are you honoring your vows?

Finding folks to keep their word these days runs in short supply. People treat many things that are meant to be forever like recyclables. We, as people, are weak; we don't commit and, often, when we do, we fail to keep our word.

Take heart! God forgives! God restores! Even the OT Law had a provision for rash vow giving and breaking: "or if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath to do evil or to do good, any sort of rash oath that people swear, and it is hidden from him, when he comes to know it, and he realizes his guilt in any of these; when he realizes his guilt in any of these and confesses the sin he has committed, he shall bring to the LORD as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin." (Leviticus 5:4-6 ESV)

Surely, as New Testament believers, we know God is a God of much grace: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ESV)

We are people of promise! God is a promise keeper! Likewise, we ought to reflect His nature, will and way; we ought to be people who keep our word too!

The Psalmist has the right idea: "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 116:13-19 ESV)

Whether to God or to others, I walk to walk in wisdom, make good vows and keep my word. God, grant me to be like You, a promise keeper.

What have you promised to who? How is that going?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Do you read your Bible?



Fellow Christian, do you read your Bible?
We, here in the United States, take for granted how readily available copies of the Scriptures are. We take for granted that many faithful translations exist in our language. We take for granted the opportunity to open that sacred book for ourselves.
I think we don't understand the great privilege we have in having such access to God's word! There were times in our history that men were killed for translating the Bible into more commonly used tongues, such as Greek, and, especially into tongues of the common people --the vernacular-- such as English or German.
There was a time when certain people thought only clergy and the educated elite should read the Bible. What phooey!
In the first edition preface of Erasmus's Greek New Testament, he said, "I vehemently dissent from those who would not have private persons read the Holy Scriptures nor have them translated into the vulgar tongues, as though either Christ taught such difficult doctrines that they can only be understood by a few theologians, or the safety of the Christian religion lay in ignorance of it. I should like all women to read the Gospel and the Epistles of Paul. Would that they were translated into all languages so that not only Scotch and Irish, but Turks and Saracens might be able to read and know them."
In the preface of Erasmus's third edition, he said, "Some think it offensive to have the sacred books turned into English or French, but the evangelists turned into Greek what Christ spoke in Syriac, nor did the Latins fear to turn the words of Christ into the Roman tongue - that is, to offer them to the promiscuous multitude...Like St. Jerome I think it a great triumph and glory to the cross if it is celebrated by the tongues of all men; if the farmer at the plow sings some of the mystic Psalms, and the weaver sitting at the shuttle often refreshes himself with something from the Gospel. Let the pilot at the rudder hum over a sacred tune, and the matron sitting with gossip or friend at the colander recite something from it."
You can argue all day as to whether you think Erasmus's Greek NT was expertly translated from Latin or not, but I think his intent was noble, right and helpful. Secondly, you'd have to take the time to become a scholar in Latin and Greek, and even some Aramaic and Hebrew, to even put up a decent argument.
My point is this: Erasmus wanted the word of God in regular folks' hands!
In a homily, Erasmus said, "Do we desire to learn, is there then any authority better than Christ? We read and reread the works of a friend, but there are thousands of Christians who have never read the gospels and the epistles in all their lives. The Mohammadans study the Koran, and Jews peruse Moses. Why do we not the same for Christ? He is our only doctor. On him the Spirit descended and a voice said, “Hear ye him!” What will you find in Thomas, what in Scotus to compare with his teaching? But as there are school masters who by their severity make boys hate learning, so there are Christians so morose as to instill distaste for the philosophy of Christ, which could not be more agreeable. Happy is he whom death overtakes meditating thereon. Let us then thirst for it, embrace it, steep ourselves in it, die in it, be transformed thereby. If any one shows us the footprints of Christ we Christians fall down and adore. If his robe is placed on exhibition do we not traverse the earth to kiss it? A wooden or a stone image of Christ is bedecked with jewels and should we not place gold gems and whatever may be more precious on the gospels which bring Christ closer to us than any paltry image? In them we have Christ speaking, healing, dying, and rising and more genuinely present than were we to view him with the eyes of the flesh."
O that we'd look upon God's word for ourselves! O that we'd meditate! O that we'd soak in His thoughts until they become ours! 
O that we'd see the grand privilege of having the Bible...freely...in our own language...without interference from governments! My Lord and my God, give us a burning zeal to know You through Your word!
Be encouraged by this reading today: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. … All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. … Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. … For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. … For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. … But [Jesus] answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” … Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. … With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. … Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (Joshua 1:8, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:105, Romans 15:4, Hebrews 4:12, Matthew 4:4, Psalm 119:18, Psalm 119:10-11, Psalm 1:2, 1 Timothy 4:13 – English Standard Version)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Gray areas and social media rules and motives and stuff

I'd like to submit the following for the wise. It originally came to me from Dr. Danny Aiken when I was a student in his hermeneutics class. 

I think the following is useful in much decision making, and it's helpful with all social media. Lord have mercy, believers post too much stuff that is not helpful to themselves, the Body, the world and that does not bring any glory to the Lord. We need to learn what "good, clean fun" is and make the choice to not share, post, click on or express some things. 

At any rate, I refer to this set of principles quite often when working through various problems and decisions. I pray it blesses you, too. 

Paul’s Corinthian Principles

(1 Corinthians 6:12 – 11:1) 


I.                   Will this action edify self?                                         6:12

Will it build me up? 
Will it profit me? 
Will it help me personally?


II.                Will this action enslave my soul?                              6:12

Can it bring me into emotional/psychological
(even chemical) bondage?


III.             Will this action exalt the Savior?                              6:1310:31

Can I glorify my Lord in this activity?


IV.              Will this action encourage other saints?                   8:13

Is this a potential stumbling block to someone else?


V.                 Will this action evangelize sinners?                          10:32-33

Will this help or harm my witness for Christ?


VI.              Will this action emulate my Savior?             11:1

Is this something I could see Jesus doing?

Monday, August 24, 2015

A great injustice...

A great injustice...
In the 40+ years since Roe v. Wade, more than not, we hear silence on the issue of abortion. I believe it is a great injustice.
We may deem Mosaic Law a thing of antiquity, but I believe it was issued by the Living God as matters of life. It is alive and it is for living.
In the Bible edition I am reading this evening, the sub-heading over Leviticus 19:9-18 reads "Love Your Neighbor as Yourself". Mind you, the sub-heading is not Scripture, and it is inserted by the choice of the publisher. All ten verses are worth a several-times-over-read, and deep meditation, but I'd like to point to a verse...a thought, if you will.
"You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor." (Leviticus 19:15 ESV)
"You shall do no injustice in court."
I believe a great injustice has been done in court.
I believe the "...poor..." in size and age have lost privilege to the "...great..."
I believe we are systematically doing an injustice. Not just this one, but many more. Any crime is a crime and any wrong is a wrong, but it seems the weaker the victim the more heinous the crime.
Some say, "It's tissue, not a person." Hogwash. Anything pregnant with anything is pregnant with a thing like itself...of itself. Thus, people are pregnant with people. Period. End of story.
I feel the clearest expression of what is happening is the word "murder", but permit me a biblical expression of what is going on: "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:18 ESV) We take vengeance against the "...sons..." (and daughters) of our own people because we rage against the interruption of our own free will against further exercise of our own free will. And, we masquerade such foolishness --or perhaps we attempt to assuage our stinging conciousnesses-- by calling this great vengeance and injustice "freedom" and "choice" and "individual rights". Well, yes, people are freely making bad choices.
Let us lay down a second great injustice; if I rail against these things, saying they are wrong and I love life, then I really ought to love life. I ought to build orphanages, pay for childcare, educate poor mothers, adopt and advocate for adoption, and on and on and one. I agree. If I value life, I ought to also value the mom's life. I agree. If I value life, I ought to be fighting poverty and racism and overcrowded prisons and undervalued disabled persons and overlooked persons with mental illness and more and more. I agree. I flat-out agree.
This is tough. It's thick. It's complicated. I know.
We don't do enough.
And, that, dear hearts, is an injustice I am squarely a part of.
Maybe we wrestle with the "who is my neighbor" question. Who should we love? Yes. Everyone. Love the one most who has the most need.
I have rambled enough. I'm wrestling. I'm not struggling with the philosophy or theology of the thing alone; I am wrestling with my part in it all. I'm not running from it.
So, here I am...before the Lord...broken...humbled...desperate...hungry for His presence...begging for revival and awakening. Sometimes, I want revival because I want things fixed, but that too is an injustice (of a sort). When I'm thinking clearly, I want revival because I just simply want Him. Tonight, I cannot avoid the fact that I want revival because I want both.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Identity

One night, back in January, I sat down and preached a sermon to my soul in bits and pieces. I reviewed it again this morning, and thought I would share it all as one piece. 


If you enjoy God's word and seeing what He has to say about things, then stay tuned tonight for a special treat. See, I believe in preaching to myself, especially when I am breathing.
Today, I had to write a sermon just to Tim, but it was so good to my soul that I am going to shrink it into bite sizes pieces and give it to my FB friends. It's called "Who Believers are and what God calls us." I'll tell you why I sought the Scriptures out for these two things... people will tell you what they think you are and who they think you are. SOMETIMES they'll ask, "Who do you think you are?" or "What do you think you're doing?" Rarely are they inquisitive; usually brusque, at best. So, my beloved friends in Christ Jesus, I have learned it's healthy to listen to another voice; to lean in and believe what God is saying, rather than being made anxious by what everyone else is saying. Anxious? Ain't nobody got time for that!
Homie don't play that. I took it to the Lord in prayer (see Philippians 4:6-7), and He reminded me of Psalm 42... "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you..." (Psalm 42:5-6 ESV) That's right! I preached to me, hoped in God and remembered His good words and works. He reminded me of who we are in Christ and what He calls us in Christ.


Who we are ... What God calls us #1
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are saved from condemnation. Hell is not our destiny!
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1 ESV)
Often, the enemy screams, but most of the time he simply whispers, "You're not worthy"; "you're no good"; "how dare you think God loves you!' What a big, fat-headed liar the enemy is! We who believe in Jesus are saved from condemnation! Whether the enemy whispers or screams, you remind him who you are in Christ.

Who we are ... What God calls us #2
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are at peace with God.
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1 ESV)
Since sin came into the world, man has been at enmity --in hate-- with God. Jesus paid the sin debt, and any who receive His payment take part in the peace He purchased for we who believe.
When the enemy preaches war, we proclaim peace. In Christ, we are at peace with the Father!

Who we are ... What God calls us #3
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are in possession of eternal life.
"Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:12 ESV)
People might say, "You don't deserve eternal life!" 
We can answer honestly, "You're right. Praise God, it doesn't depend on me!" 
In Christ, we are possessors of eternal life, not based on our merit, but based on His sacrifice on the cross and defeat of death.

Who we are ... What God calls us #4
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are made right!
"...and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Romans 3:24 ESV)
Many of us have experienced that overwhelming feeling that SOMETHING else needs to be done. Many of have experienced that overwhelming feeling that we simply ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Sometimes, that's the voice of the enemy. Sometimes, that's a thousand voices of our personal history collecting against us.
Friend, show them all the receipt that is CALVARY! He's paid it all! The bill has been made right. It is finished! We are justified in Christ Jesus!

Who we are ... What God calls us #5
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
"...the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe." (Romans 3:22 ESV)
We do have to face it, our righteousness is no better than filthy rags (see Isaiah 64:6). And, people will let us know it, too. We'll let ourselves know it. The enemy will definitely let us know it. God has let us know it!
Good news! In Christ, we get new clothes! YES! Hallelujah!

Who we are ... What God calls us #6
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are of great value.
"...for you were bought with a price." (1 Corinthians 6:20a ESV)
Just think about it...our sin was so serious that it cost Jesus His life. Likewise, our lives are so valuable, God sent His only begotten Son to redeem us. Wow!
How many times have you felt worthless? Yes, we all go through it. You are NOT worthless! In Christ, we are of great value! We were bought with a precious price!

Who we are ... What God calls us #7
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are made part of God's family.
"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God," (John 1:12 ESV)
It hurts not to belong. It hurts to be alone.
When God offered us Jesus, and when we accepted, we became family! We are in the Father's household. What a privilege! That's why the Spirit makes it natural for us to call Him "Abba" -- Daddy (see Romans 8:15).
I am so thankful to belong. Thank You, Jesus.


Who we are ... What God calls us #8
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are set apart --sanctified-- as God's special possession for God's special purposes.
"To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)
Uncommon. That's us. In Christ, we are not meant for the ordinary. We're set apart for God's good pleasure and purposes. The common becomes destroyed, but the set apart is carefully protected.
But, the best part of being sanctified is where God places us...IN Christ. What a wonderful place to be situated and safe.

Who we are ... What God calls us #9 
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are something new; something we've never been before.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Whatever sin has made us, in Christ Jesus, we're becoming something else. We're becoming like HIM! Wow! Listen, God sees it...He sees it completed even though sometimes we can't sense it's happening. He sees you as new; He's hidden you in His Son and when He looks, He sees Jesus...day by day, He is making you into what He already chooses to see you as.
Boom...when I think of this, I'm blown away...

Who we are ... What God calls us #10
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are accepted. Yes, it's another way to look at the fact that we are adopted, but let's think on it...
"...In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will," (Ephesians 1:4c-5 ESV)
We aren't foster kids. We're not the always-around-neighbor kids. God has accepted us into His family. He's given us His name. He's made us His.
In a world filled with so much rejection, praise God, in Christ we are accepted by the Father!

Who we are ... What God calls us #11
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are qualified.
"...giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." (Colossians 1:12 ESV)
You've had some experience in your life where you had lessons to learn, tests to pass, levels to achieve, and standards to meet before someone would say, "You are qualified." Think about your school career; that diploma says you've accomplished at least the bare minimum to graduate (you've qualified).
We'd never be qualified for heaven on our own.
We'd never be qualified for fellowship with the Father on our own. 
We'd never be qualified for righteousness on our own.
In Christ, we are qualified. In the instant we receive Him we have reached BOTH the minimum and the maximum. In the least, we must have Jesus. In Jesus, we have the most bestest greatest of good and wonderful. Yes, in Jesus, to say the least, we are qualified.

Who we are ... What God calls us #12
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are protected and pronounced.
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit," (Ephesians 1:13 ESV)
The Father calls us into the Son and the Spirit locks the door. We are sealed in Christ! That means we are protected, and neither powers above or powers below can snatch us from the Father's hand nor separate us from the Son's love. We are sealed!
We are also pronounced authentic. The Spirit testifies on our behalf (see John 3:31-36).
When Satan calls you a fake, you can refer Him to the Spirit. 
When Satan tries to snatch you, he can't crack the door open. 
In Jesus, you are safe.

Who we are ... What God calls us #13
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, we are blessed.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places," (Ephesians 1:3 ESV)
The world tempts us to keep up with the Joneses, so we must remember Him who gave life to our boneses. We're blessed. The poorest saint has a treasure in Christ that makes them richer than the wealthiest person who has Jesus not.
All that is coming to Jesus is coming to us. He has made us co-heirs to Himself and His fortune. Wow! WE ARE BLESSED!

Who we are ... What God calls us #14
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us children.
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)
Sure, as has been previously said, we are adopted, named into the family, but it's important to see what God calls us...not cousin...not a "step" child...but child.
See, friend, under sin it's true to say we are creations of God. We're all given our substance by Him and He knits each of us together in our mothers' wombs and He breathes the breath of life into each of us. But, in Christ, we move from being only-creation to both creation AND child.
When bullies come after me, because I am His child, I will call my Daddy!

Who we are ... What God calls us #15
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us servants.
"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property." (Matthew 25:14 ESV)
God does not need us in His work, but He calls us into His work. From Him, we get holy, good and eternal purpose. We get Kingdom labor that matters and we labor at our normal labors as if unto God Himself.
"Who do you work for?" some might ask. 
We could say this company or that company.
Truth be told, God has called us servants, and HIS work and HIS company are better than all others combined!
Never let anyone tell us our labor matters not!
Who we are ... What God calls us #16
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us friends.
"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15 ESV)
You've heard it said: you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family. In our case, God picked us for both. He wants our company.
Let that sink into your heart...
This old world makes you feel like you're not wanted. God wants you. In Christ Jesus, He calls you friend. He wants to spend time with you, hear your stories, laugh with you, comfort you as you weep, struggle beside you as you journey along; God wants you.

Who we are ... What God calls us #17
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us saints.
"To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:" (1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV)
We think that word --saints-- is reserved for old Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox guys. No, it's what God calls all who He places in Christ. We're all "set apart" --Greek: hagios; "saints"-- in Christ. That's how He sees us and that's what He calls us.
He calls us that because it speaks of our position and His intention. He has set us apart and He has set us apart; He's made us holy to make us holy.
Friend, in Jesus, YOU ARE A saint!


Who we are ... What God calls us #18
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us sheep.
"To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (John 10:3 ESV)
That speaks to our need for leadership and His willingness for tender care.
Some, at various times, have accurately noticed that sheep aren't very smart, and it feels like a degradation to be called a sheep in that light. But, think about it, compared to the shepherd, sheep aren't so smart!
Compared to God, we aren't very sharp. But, more than that, it speaks to His willingness to patiently lead and care for us. He takes us into His flock to lead us, sure, but to protect us, too.
With God as my Shepherd, I definitely love being called a sheep!

Who we are ... What God calls us #19
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us brothers.
"For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers," (Hebrews 2:11 ESV)
Children of God, right? Right. Brothers with Jesus.
Just let that soak in.
Servants for the work. 
Saints set apart. 
Children as part of the family. 
Friends for the fellowship. 
Sheep for the tender care. 
Brothers with the Lord Jesus...
Gracious God, Almighty King...YOU are good to we who believe! We are received and accepted, loved and adopted, wanted and worthy...Just because of Jesus.

Who we are ... What God calls us #20
As believers; as people who have placed trust and faith in Christ Jesus, God calls us Christians.
"...and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians." (Acts 11:26 ESV)
The people in Antioch --probably the unbelieving people in Antioch-- gave us this name, but it was because God set these folks apart and they responded to His work by acting like His Son. So, people called them Christians --it's like saying "a little Christ".

God let the label stick. That's what He wants the world to call us. He wants us to earn this name! No matter if the world means it in derision, let us bear it in honor.