- 2016Jan 25
When I fired up the iTunes today the first song I heard made me chuckle. Not because of the content but because of the appropriateness of the song for this week. The artist is Jason Gray and his song is called “Remind Me Who I Am”.
Jason Gray’s song is exactly what I needed for this week. Here are some of the lyrics.
When I lose my way
When I forget my name
Remind me who I am
In the mirror all I see
is who I don’t wanna be
Remind me who I am
I have to be reminded constantly that to be effective in this journey you have to remember who you are in Christ.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is in play here. Paul had spent a little over two years teaching and discipling the new believers in Ephesus. Just a few short years after he left Paul received reports that those new hearts had reverted to old habits. Things were a bit of a mess and the word came back that the old behaviors of rage, immorality, lying, stealing and gossip were resurfacing. Paul wrote a letter to address this sad turn of events. Yet the amazing thing to me is that the first three chapters never address their sin. Paul even calls them as saints for crying out loud! If I was writing that letter it would have had an entirely different tone. Something more along these lines. “What are you thinking? I am so disappointed in you. What is wrong with you? Do you know how much I sacrificed for you?” But Paul doesn’t do that. Rather, in the first three chapters, he talks about identity. He reminds them who they are. That is what Jason Gray is asking God to do in his song.
In the loneliest places
When I can’t remember what grace is
Tell me once again who I am to You
Who I am to You
Lest I forget who I am to You
I belong to You
I had a really difficult time trusting my identity. But your actions tend to reflect who you believe you are. You default to your identity. I had read this verse from Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth dozens of times:
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Because of Christ I have a new identity. I am righteous because of Him and not because of trying to do more right “stuff.” I am a saint and there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. It is a liberating and joyous message. But there is a problem. Satan hates that message of hope and change. And so he goes about trying to “steal’ my identity in Christ. I spend money and time and put lots of effort into protecting my financial and personal identity and certainly that is important. But I would suggest that our spiritual identity is far more important and I am afraid we make it all too easy for the enemy to steal away it from us.
Remind me who I am
When I can’t receive Your love
Afraid I’ll never be enough
Remind me who I am
If I’m Your beloved
Can You help me believe it
We find it difficult to believe that we are changed because many times when we fail the old tapes are instantly cue up and start playing loudly:
You will never change.
You always do that.
I can’t believe you did that again.
What is wrong with you?
All of those accusations that Satan (and others who are quite happy to help) hurls your way are no longer true about you. All of the guilt and shame and sin that used to define you are no longer true. That old life is gone. You are a new creation. New life has begun.
Even though the Ephesians had messed up royally in how they were living out their faith Paul did not condemn them as he began his letter. He had to be heartbroken. But he showed his love by not lecturing but by reminding them who they were….adopted, redeemed, and sealed. Saints. He NEVER wrote a word about changing their behavior until chapter four!
I have spent too many years being an Ephesians 4 to 6 Christian. I looked at behavior and judged that…often sinfully. I am becoming an Ephesians 1 to 3 Christian. Remembering and reminding myself and others who we are. Out of those truths behavior changes.
Jason Gray sings in the chorus to “Tell me once again who I am to You”. When you are a follower of Christ here a just things that are true of you.
Adopted. Redeemed. Sealed. Loved. A saint. Righteous. Accepted. Forgiven. A new creation. A child of God.
No matter what difficulty or trial you might encounter this week I pray that you will take a moment and remember who you are. A saint. Adopted. Redeemed. Sealed. And live out of those amazing truths. Consider yourself (and your humble fellow journeyer) reminded.
Author Dave Burchett's latest book is Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. You can follow him on Twitter @directordb.Ja
- 2016Jan 11
A few years ago the lovely Mrs. Burchett and I had the joy of watching Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder in concert. I have decided that if am ever unresponsive you can check my heart status by playing a Ricky Skaggs album. If my toe doesn’t start tapping I am likely flat-lined. You just can’t help responding if you have a pulse.
Recently one of his tunes cycled up and brought back memories of something my Mom always said to me. The song that jogged that recollection was called Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’.
Now lookee here gal don’t ya’ high hat me,
I ain’t forgot what you used ta be
When you didn’t have nuthin,
That was plain ta’ see.
Don’t get above your raisin’
Stay down ta’ earth with me.
Mom was raised as a farm girl in Kentucky and she was fiercely proud of that. So anytime she perceived that I was getting a bit uppity and full of myself she would throw that line down.
“Don’t get above your raisin’.”
Sometimes it was over such important issues as abandoning Maxwell House for that fancy-schmancy gourmet brew. Usually the comment was meant to keep me grounded (no pun intended for once) and to remind me where I came from. Can’t say that I always appreciated the input.
I think we do the same thing as Christians. A big reason that we are not more joyful and victorious in this journey is that we forget where we came from and the grace given to us. We have forgotten our raisin’ and the gift of our salvation. Somehow we forget how desperate we were and start to believe that we were actually deserving. You know, God is pretty fortunate to have me on board. Paul reminds Titus to tell the believers in Crete to remember where they came from…
Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. (Titus 3, NLT)
Not too attractive. Nothing to be uppity about. Then the grace of God intervened.
But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”
So that is where I came from. That is where you came from if you are a follower of Jesus. Paul wraps ups this text with a challenge.
This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone.
My constant challenge is to not get above my raisin’ spiritually.
- If I can’t forgive then I have forgotten where I came from. I did not deserve to be forgiven by a Holy God. I was.
- When I look with disdain at another person I have forgotten where I came from. That person is a soul that Jesus came to this planet to die for on the Cross and offers them the opportunity to accept that act through faith.
- When I don’t accept another brother or sister I have forgotten that I was unacceptable to a Holy God. Jesus said you are acceptable because of His finished work. We must offer the same grace because of Jesus.
- When I can’t serve without expectation of personal return I have forgotten where I came from. If I remember where I came from I will serve because I am grateful for what Christ did for me.
- When I don’t give joyfully of my time and treasure I have forgotten where I came from. If you truly understand where you came from the natural response is to serve Him joyfully.
This is important stuff. I don’t want to forget where I came from both as a person and as a child of God. My small town roots are a big part of who I am. And my encounter with grace at the foot of the Cross defines who I am spiritually. I pray that I will remember every day who I am and where Jesus brought me from. Take time to remember where you came from. And then respond appropriately.
Author Dave Burchett's latest book is Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace. You can follow him on Twitter @directordb.
- 2016Jan 03
We have been outlining God’s Guaranteed Weight Loss Plan. With this plan you can begin to lose the weight of bitterness and anger caused from lack of forgiveness. If you are carrying around an unforgiving spirit it is weighing you down spiritually and emotionally. I know from sad personal experience. Part one and two set the stage and today we wrap up the list.
Fact 7: Forgiveness is not denial of the hurt.
Pride will often cause us to “not allow the person who hurt us the satisfaction” of knowing we are wounded. That is absurd. Acknowledge the reality of the injury, but make the choice to be healed.
Fact 8: Forgiveness eliminates revenge as an option.
The late author Lewis Smedes makes a brilliant point about revenge. No matter how much we try “we cannot get even; this is the inner fatality of revenge.” When we start trying to get even, we have lost. How many times must I gossip about you to get “even” for the hurt you caused me? When is the scale even? Or do I need to have the scale tip a bit toward me to be satisfied? What a self-defeating pursuit that becomes! And the truth proclaimed by author Josh Billings is “there is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.”
Fact 9: Forgiveness lets go of the need to know why.
Forgiving hurt without explanation is part of the faith-tour contract we signed when we decided to follow Jesus. Author David Stoop notes that, “People choose the Path of Bitterness when they get caught up in trying to understand the reasons for the offense. They think, if only they could understand why the other person did what he or she did, they could get over it and let it go.” I have three words for that approach: does not work.
Fact 10: Forgiveness lets go of the need to be right.
Forgiveness requires humility. We can be 100 percent right about an issue and lose every relationship around us in the process. Or we can be just as right but exercise grace and humility and not leave a trail of battered sheep in the dust.
Fact 11: Forgiveness requires praying blessings on those who have wounded us.
Begin to bless and wish good things for those who hurt us. This may be my least favorite requirement. But Jesus said:
“When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.” (Luke 6:28, The Message)
I do not like to do this. The last thing I feel like doing is praying for the people who hurt me. But here’s a secret: Praying for our enemies changes our attitude about them. When I was a kid I was a voracious reader of comic books (certainly one factor that explains my intellectual prowess). One of the advertisements that captivated me while reading those volumes was the little ad in the back of the comic book for the Incredible X-Ray Glasses. With these amazing glasses I imagined that I could see through walls. I will confess that not all of my intentions for the glasses were pure. But I was sure that with the X-ray glasses I could see people in a way I never had seen them before. I would suggest that is how forgiveness works. We put on the glasses of gratitude and grace and we see people who hurt us not as the enemy but as weak, fallible, needy people just like us. We see through their outer garments of pride and confusion and see the naked truth of sin. They are people who needed forgiveness (just like me) and perhaps have not reached the point in God’s timing to be able to administer forgiveness (just like me a lot of the time). They are sinners saved by grace…just like me and you. A key component of forgiveness is to not make the other person evil. Most people who inflict hurt are not evil people. They are fallible and fearful people just like me, and to demonize them would have made forgiveness impossible.
Paul wrote in the Book of Romans that we should bless our enemies. The word “bless” can be translated to mean “to speak well of.” Now, Paul understands life in the trenches. He knows that we can smile that tight-lipped smile and say polite things about those who hurt us and be murmuring out the side of our mouth. So he throws the big punch right after the semi-colon.
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. (Romans 12:14, The Message)
Blessing our adversaries messes with their minds, so at least we get that satisfaction. As Abe Lincoln sagely asked, “Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?” The Christian paraphrase is: The best way to destroy your enemy is to bless him in prayer. One of my favorite quotes relating to this issue comes from Pastor R. G. Lee. “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons; but they are helpless against our prayers.”
General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought about a fellow officer. The man in question had been most unkind in his remarks about Lee, yet the general rated him as being “very satisfactory.” The person confronting Lee was astounded. “General,” he chided, “I guess you don’t know what he’s been saying about you.” “I know,” Lee responded, “But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me.” That, my friend, is the grace of God in action.
Fact 12: Forgiveness allows you to be selfish.
Say what? I have heard bitterness described as drinking rat poison and hoping the other person dies. Who wants that? I also appreciate the insight of author Hannah More when she writes, “Forgiveness is the economy of the heart…. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.” When we follow the directive of Jesus and forgive, we are free to concentrate on the blessings in your life.
Lewis Smedes wrote powerfully about forgiveness. He often said only forgiveness can “release us from the grip of our history.” We cannot change an abusive upbringing. We cannot alter dysfunctional theological training that denied grace. We cannot simply deny the hurts that have been visited upon us and be spiritually free. Only forgiveness can release us from the grip of these real and historical events. And that forgiveness will drop the weight of bitterness and anger. If you only keep one resolution make forgiveness the one you keep in 2016.