Accept who God made you and stop making such a mess

I rarely used to state my opinion out loud. Sure, I’d think it to myself frequently, but I’d never say anything that could come back to bite me. I never wanted to upset anyone. I never wanted to reveal any sort of weakness.

Not a very good way to get to know people. Not a good way to be a witness for Christ either.

I was afraid to speak out, for fear that I would be wrong or that people wouldn’t like what I had to say. So it was just easier to stay silent. But in recent years, I’ve come to grips with who God made me and why He made me. Now, I can sit and have a conversation with someone and share openly about my life–my successes and my failures, without fearing judgment or condescension. Doesn’t mean I don’t experience it, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

I had to come to grips with who God made me as a person and what His plans for me look like. When I did that, I didn’t have to be afraid of who I was anymore.

A-Bull-in-a-China-Shop-57223Today’s verses are Psalm 139:14-16.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Now, some people will barrel through life like bulls in China shops, hooting and hollering and being loud, and they’ll just tell people they were born loud. God made them loud. So that gives them an excuse to run over people.

Sorry, folks. That’s not the case. God never made anyone with the purpose of running other people down. Sure, some of us have a bigger set of lungs than others, but that doesn’t give us the right to disturb someone else’s peace or say things about others that are untrue.

God made you for a purpose. He created you for a reason. But until you accept that purpose and reason for your life, you’ll just be a bull in a China shop, breaking things and making trouble for others. Or you’ll be the quiet one in the corner with a brain full of knowledge but not enough courage to speak out when you need to.

It comes down to how you see yourself, how you see others, and how you see God. Your perspective on those three subjects will determine how you behave.

If you think you’re all that matters, that’s how you’ll live. You’ll make decisions that only benefit you, regardless of how you hurt those around you. Other people won’t matter. And you’ll have the ability to twist God’s words into permission for you to get what you want out of life.

But if you’re focused on God, you’ll have life straight. Maybe it won’t feel like it all the time. Maybe most of the time it’ll feel like life is slipping through your fingers. But you’ll have your priorities correct.

You don’t have to be loud for people to hear you. You don’t have to make noise to get people’s attention. You sure don’t need it to get God’s attention. You already have it, and He’s been trying to talk to you forever. You just aren’t listening.

So knock it off. Quiet down and listen to Him for a change.

And for you quiet folks, don’t be afraid of your opinions. If you’ve got your eyes on God and you’re following Him, He will tell you things in His Word that He might not reveal to other people. Seriously, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for because they’re quiet enough to listen to God when He’s speaking.

Be open. Be honest. But speak the truth in love. God never reveals truth so that we can use it as a sledgehammer. He reveals truth so that we understand how much He loves us and how desperately we need Him.

Some people hide behind loudness and noise. Other people hide behind silence and curtains. But everybody hides, usually because they think they aren’t good enough.

But God made you who you are, with your foibles and quirks and eccentricities. He knew you’d have your strange propensities before you were even born, and He thinks they’re wonderful. So if God isn’t ashamed of them, why are you?

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Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Underdog

I love underdog stories. Those stories where the main character comes from unfortunate circumstances but still manages to overcome the challenges in his life are the most heartwarming stories in culture, I think. Like the Karate Kid movies, even the new one, which I really enjoy. Like the Mighty Ducks. In some cases, even some superhero types are considered underdogs. They just never intended to be heroes.

You have to admit, there’s something endearing about a character who has always had a rough time in life suddenly finding himself (or herself) in the middle of a situation where the stakes keep getting higher. And there’s something inside us that cheers for the underdog constantly. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they’re trying to accomplish; if it seems impossible, and if the odds are stacked against them, we cheer them on. At least, I do. I have a soft spot for underdogs.

What’s amazing to me is that so does God. The Bible is full of underdog stories, where average people like you and me end up in extraordinary circumstances, and through God’s power, they change the world. Yesterday I blogged about how God can take the sadness in our lives and change it into something worth rejoicing about, but that’s not all He can do.

Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Zephaniah 3:19.

And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you.
    I will save the weak and helpless ones;
I will bring together
    those who were chased away.
I will give glory and fame to my former exiles,
    wherever they have been mocked and shamed.

You want to talk about underdogs? Let’s talk about Israel for a moment.

When I was little, I used to think that Israel had to be some amazing, great country full of resources and power. I used to think that they had to have done something incredible for God to have called them His Chosen People. But let’s be honest here. Israel is a beautiful country, and they have many resources. But in comparison to other countries in the world, they’re kind of small. They have a lot of history, but other countries have more. Honestly what makes Israel special isn’t anything they’ve done; it’s the fact that God chose them.

By that same token, I used to think that Abraham was someone special. I used to think that he had some kind of special gift or something that made him the best candidate to found the nation of Israel. But he didn’t. He was just a guy. There wasn’t anything special about him other than the fact that God called and he obeyed. That’s it.

Israel and Israel’s history is full of instances where they were the lightweight in the corner who didn’t have a chance. But every time Israel’s leaders did what God told them to do, whether they were patriarchs or kings, God gave them victory over armies much larger than they were. God took a little, unimportant country and elevated it to a place where the region had to recognize their victory. He did the same with people, ordinary shepherds, children, uneducated people, outcasts, foreigners. You name someone who would be relegated to the dregs of society and read about how they followed God and how God raised them up to a level where other people (people who had made fun of them or hated them) had to recognize that they had achieved something.

Only God can do that.

Do you think Joseph could have become the second most important man in the world on his own steam (Genesis 37-54)? Do you think David could have had the strength to stand up to Goliath without God on his side (1 Samuel 17)? Do you think any prostitute could deserve to belong in the lineage of Jesus Christ Himself without God changing her heart (Joshua 2)?

God is a God of underdogs, and He’s always looking for people who are willing to answer when He calls. And those people who answer when He calls have a chance to do the impossible, because when God is working with you, the impossible isn’t impossible anymore.

Are you in a situation where you feel inadequate? Do you find yourself in a place where no one recognizes you, whether you want them to or not? Are you lost in the shuffle of the crowd? Are you the low man on the totem pole?

Guess what? God’s cheering for you. It’s the folks on the bottom who attract God’s attention. I’m not saying He can’t use people on the top. He’s done that before too, but I’d be curious to know how those people at the top got there to begin with. Usually if you start out at the top, you aren’t interested in helping folks at the bottom–and that’s what God usually asks.

So if you’re inadequate and all you know is that you don’t have the skills to accomplish what God has called you to do, you’re in good company. But don’t worry because your responsibility is to answer. You don’t have e to know how it’s going to work out. You just have to do what God’s called you to do, and He will equip you for any eventuality you encounter along the way. And through His power and His strength and Him just being Him, He will change you from being the ineffective one at the bottom of the chain to someone who can change the world.

Lifeboat on the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Name it and claim it?

Did you ever scribble your name on your lunchbox? Or on a toy you loved? Even as children, we understand that if you write your name on something, that indicates it belongs to you or that you are taking responsibility for it. But it doesn’t stop with identifying our toys; we label everything to indicate ownership, from carmakers to life vests on board ships.

In the past few days, I’ve been posting about the instances where God has changed people’s names, but I read today’s verse and had a thought of a different sort.

Lifeboat on the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Lifeboat on the Galveston Ferry, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Isaiah 62:2.

The nations will see your righteousness.
    World leaders will be blinded by your glory.
And you will be given a new name
    by the Lord’s own mouth.

God, through the prophet Isaiah, is actually talking about something that will happen in the future, concerning the Jewish race and the city of Jerusalem. A promise for what is to come. But as per usual, verses in Scripture can usually have more than one intention. And it’s not so much the verse itself that hit me this morning but the meaning behind it.

God gives new names. He doesn’t just change our names, but he takes our old names, our old identities, and does away with them, replacing them with something new. God is a God of second chances and third chances and fourth chances and fifth and so on and so forth. He never gives up on us, and He’s always there waiting for the day when we realize we can’t handle life on our own.

But there’s a part of naming that people forget, I think, and that’s the part about inscribing names and ownership. Because if you name something, usually it means you own it. If you name something, usually that means it belongs to you. We name our pets. We name our inventions. We name our ideas. And honestly, that’s how it works with God.

Not saying we are property to be owned, but someone has to be responsible for us. Maybe that’s a better way of looking at it. Who else is willing to take responsibility for the out-of-control mess that is my life? Who else other than God?

When we decide to follow Christ, God marks us as His own. Yes. But there’s another level of ownership going on in the universe. God created everything. He owns it all. He’s set His signature on every part of creation, and only those who are too blinded by their own importance don’t see it. And as the Creator, the Imaginer, the Owner, He has the right to do whatever He wants with what belongs to Him.

If you buy a car, people don’t get to tell you where to drive it. If you create an invention, people don’t get to tell you how to use it. Why is it different with God? He created the world, and He gave it to people to take care of. And what did we do? We turned it over to our Enemy to wreak havoc and destroy.

God is sovereign. He has the right to do as He pleases with what belongs to Him, and that includes this world, this universe, and everything down to the smallest quark–which also means you and me, whether we have chosen to follow Him or not. But even more so in the lives of those who have specifically given their lives to Him. We are so fortunate that God is good and patient and loving.

So if you are a Christ follower, don’t be thinking that you get to live however you want. If you follow Christ, don’t get the idea that you choose your own path without consequences. Even people who don’t follow Christ face consequences when they do wrong or when they choose foolishly; don’t think you’ll get away with it just because you gave your heart to Christ.

If God has changed your name, He has taken responsibility for you. He has the right to tell you how to live. And if you want to take issue with that, if you want to live in conflict with Him over that, why did you choose to follow Him in the first place?

Personally, I’m so thankful that God was willing to take responsibility for me. I have so many issues in my life that I can’t handle them on my own, and it’s a comfort to me to be able to turn it all over to Him and ask for help. And the way I look at it: He’s God. He knows. He knows what’s coming. He understands my potential. He wants to help me and do good things for me. So when He speaks, when He tells me to do something, I’m going to do it, whether it makes sense or not.