Be The Person God Wants You To Become

” God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power.“He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.” – Job 37:5-6. 

Have you ever sat in your house and asked yourself a simple question: “What does God want from me?” That is the wrong question. The right question is  “What does God want for me?” We often consider God as this demanding ruler that wants something from us, therefore we need to try our best to do the right thing, do good works, or live up to some kind of moral or ethical standard.

But it is not about what we do for God—but what God wants from us. The good news is that God wants something beautiful for you! God wants you to follow Jesus and experience life to the full. God wants to know you. He wants for you to have a love relationship with Him. He wants to change you. He wants you to become a new person, more like Jesus. And he wants for you to serve effectively, to live a meaningful life. An important step is to admit and understand what you are and are not made for. 

In Job 37 we read, “He directs the snow to fall on the earth.” Snow does basically one thing, it falls. And then He says to the rain shower, “… to pour down” God created snow to snow and rain to rain. It’s simple. God simply wants us to become what He’s already created us to be. We twist ourselves up in knots trying desperately to be something or someone else. Trying to fulfill some endless list of qualities and capabilities that we think will make us feel loved or safe or happy. Somewhere along the line, we stopped asking two questions: What is God asking me to do? What is the thing God created me to be?

God created us uniquely; we are equal but different. Our lives cannot and will never be the same. Each of us is so different and with different gifts. Our personalities are different, our outlook on life is different, and our perspectives are different. We are on the journey of life but our paths will always be as different as there are many of us. We were not meant to be born, grow up, grow old, and then die. No. Each of us was placed on earth for a time and a purpose. A purposeful life is the most fulfilling life. We have to follow the path that pleases God and serve the Lord diligently. 

Scripture tells us that if we want to become the person we are meant to be – who God says is the “real you.” You must become like Christ. That’s a tall order to fill. However, the mark of a Christian is our desire to fill it. We want to be more like our creator and our savior, and the more we are with Him, the more like Him we become.

God “…”knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29) And 2 Corinthians 3:18 adds, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can you think of a time when your thoughts either positively or negatively started to shape your actions?
  2. What’s one way you can set your mind on things above today?

Discovering Your Identity

” But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12  

Do you ever feel you are right smack dab in the middle of an identity crisis? While everyone around you is pursuing their passions and chasing their dreams, you’re just trying to make sense of who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. It doesn’t help that you see the achievements of the people around you. For example, one man you know started a flourishing company while a woman you know became a fighter pilot after graduating from college.

Perhaps, this is the reason the internet is bursting with personal development courses. Seeking to reach our full potential, we opt into the “how-to” topics such as: breaking through obstacles to manifest your best life, increasing your confidence and self-esteem, discovering your hidden potential, and mastering life through happiness, health and success. 

It is easy to associate our actions with our identity. But that is not what God does. Our culture may draw a line from our work to our worth, but God has another identity for us, one that’s unchanging and independent of our actions. It’s as His chosen and beloved child. John 1:12 says, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”

God’s acceptance of us, and hence our identity, is not defined by our actions. So we will never be a “failure” or “disappointment” when our performance doesn’t match our expectations. The only thing that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks about us. And that is unchanging. Once we really believe this truth, our identity will be unshakable.

The Bible is replete with examples of people following Jesus. No longer were they harlots, vagabonds, tax collectors, or society’s outcasts. They were chosen by the Lord. They were accepted. And they were necessary. 

You are chosen by God. Remembering whose we are and that He chose us brings the entire picture into a better light. When we acknowledge ourselves as God’s children and understand His great love for us, we embrace grace. We no longer feel trapped by our past choices, our upbringing, or our social status. We are not manipulated into being someone we are not based on the voices around us or the ones inside our heads. We can let all that go because we belong to Jesus. You no longer need to stand on your personal merits or achievements. Your identity is found in Christ alone. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “ But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” 

Just as Jesus called His disciples to identify with Him, He calls us to do the same. Follow Him. Serve Him. Belong to Him. In doing so, we are choosing to find our identity in Him and in no other. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. The only way we grow in our identity in Christ is by seeking the Lord because He is the one who restores and transforms us. Agree or disagree and why?
  2. According to Ephesians 1:4, what truth should be fully realized in order to find identity in Christ?

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

 “A person would be insane to hear his physician diagnose his ailment as a rapidly growing tumor, and then think that just because he had talked with his doctor, the growth would suddenly disappear. No, he’s going to have to be operated on. Likewise, just being exposed to the truth won’t make us mature. Nor will it alone — without application — solve one problem.” –  Chuck Swindoll, Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back.  

Chuck Swindoll wrote a book titled, Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back. In Ezra 4 we see that idea in action. In Chapter 4, God has stirred up the heart of the pagan King Cyrus to issue a decree for the Jews to return to their land and rebuild His temple. One step forward. Thousands of Jews respond by giving up their lives in Babylon and making the long, dangerous trek back to the land. A second step forward. They rebuilt the altar, gathered in Jerusalem, and laid the foundation for the new temple. A third step forward. 

Then the enemy hit and the work on the temple stopped. One step back. The work ceased for approximately 18  years. Two steps back. They were still in the land (one step ahead), but there was no center for worship in Jerusalem. The people, intimidated by their enemies, settled into a routine of life that got along without temple worship until God stirred up the prophets to rebuild the temple.

Have you ever felt that way, that life seems like it’s one step forward and two steps back? We feel like things are really moving forward and then life happens and we find things are moving backward again.  That is both natural and frustrating. The apostle Paul had arrived in Ephesus in Acts 19. Paul starts doing what he always does, preaching in the synagogues, in the streets, and among the gentiles. Things were going so well for Paul that in verses 11-12 it says, “God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.”  Can you imagine that kind of success in your life? Your marriage, work, school, or whatever is going so well that it is spilling over onto other people and the mere touch of something that has touched you is making others better. That is a tremendous step forward.  Paul ultimately had to leave Ephesus. He gathered the church encouraged them and said farewell.

But it doesn’t matter how many times we have fallen or how many steps backward we’ve taken. We need to remember that “…My grace is all you need….” (2 Corinthians 12.9)

What is often needed is a new beginning with God. New beginnings are exciting and filled with hope. By His grace, we can turn back to the Lord and start afresh. But no sooner have we started anew than we experience a setback. The spiritual high that we have enjoyed is followed by a deep spiritual low. Ask God for the grace you need and step forward … one step at a time. And when you fail … and we all do at times … we need to go back to the cross and remember that God’s grace and forgiveness are always available.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What will be your strategy to affirm your identity in Christ when you feel like you’re losing ground after making a decision to move forward?
  2. Why do you think it’s hard to let go of control and trust God for your future?

Facing a Mid-Life Crisis?

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” –  Isaiah 46:4.

It happens sooner or later. One day, you turn around and your children are adults. Suddenly, they are no longer discussing skateboarding or arguing over wanting to go to cheerleading practice. It doesn’t seem possible that they could be my kids. I’m not that old. Everything passed by with blinding speed.  I now realize that a huge chunk of my life is behind me. Sigh. Is this a mid-life crisis? 

It was Bob Hope who said, “you know you’ve reached middle age when your weightlifting consists merely of standing up.” 

The realization that more of life lies behind than ahead causes some people to panic. The “midlife crisis” simply represents a crisis of identity, significance, and purpose. God built us for those things so He has a solution.

God reminds us more than once in His Word that growing older is an honor. “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life” (Proverbs 16:31) The more years we live, the more experiences we’re given to learn from, and the more wisdom and perspective we gain to see life in new and beautiful ways.  

Yes, the media and advertisers lead us to believe that youth somehow has more value, the truth is, we are treasured by God at every age. Not only that, but He gives us specific gifts to share with the world in every season of our lives. In Titus 2:3-5, Paul reminds the older women of their great purpose: “Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” The generations depend on our willingness to share what God has given us.

No matter what age we are, we can align our goals with God’s goals for our lives. No matter our age, God has a purpose for our life. Ephesians 2:10 says,  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has a purpose for your life, but in order to fulfill that purpose, you need to grab hold of that for which He grabbed hold of you. Walk with God, and He will lead you where you are supposed to go even in middle age. 

 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Is it possible to grow older, but not old? 
  2. Should middle-age change our spiritual lives? 

What Do You Want Most?

“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”  – Samuel Johnson.

What do you want most out of life? Or let me ask ask the same question a different way. What do you treasure most? If I asked that question of everyone who is a member or regular attender of Northstar, I would get a variety of answers. A preponderance of the answers, however, would be success in long-term goals involving: my relationship/walk with God, family, home, financial success, community, generosity, integrity, and wisdom to name a few.

But if we are honest, we may also want to deal with the negative in our lives. The things in our life that are in the crevices we try to ignore. Most of us have things that are buried in hidden crevices. We try to ignore them, but if we’re honest, we have to admit they’re there. We’re not even sure what those crevices contain. Is it a lack of faith? Is it doubt? Is it the memory of a time when we didn’t do what we know was right? They are always there, lurking in the background.  We can work and try all our lives, but we can’t seem to reach them. What we want most in life is to rid ourselves of these things that we believe could be impeding our relationship with God. The reality is we can’t fix these things on our own.

The reason I believe this series, Small Changes, Big Difference was so important is that we can clean out the crevices, whether they are habits, or lack of discipline or whatever, and get what we want most. Wherever you are in your walk with God, it is the end of a chapter not the end of the book. There are more chapters in my life to be written. And where you now is not how the story really ends. It is a lifetime process. It is never complete in this life. God won’t stop until the job is done.

What happened in the past is in the past. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. Today, you can turn the page and take the small steps to improve your relationships on this earth and your relationship with God. So, today, strike up a conversation with God. Tell Him what you want most, and ask Him for His help to get you there. And then trust Him to unfold His plan as He sees fit. I remember the Garth Brook’s song about how some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. Remember that God doesn’t answer prayer our way, He answers them His way which is always better. He will address your habits, good and bad. He will help you with your lack of discipline or build on the discipline you have. He will help you clean out those crevices.

“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Note the last four words: “He will do it.” They are simple and direct. No qualification, based on the complexity of our habits or the depth of our crevices. There is no hesitation, or doubt of any kind. Not “He may do it” or “He might do it” or “He could do it” or “He will do it if he feels like it.” Not even “He will do it if we do our part or we are worthy.” Just a simple statement that God will do it without the slightest reference to anything on our part. Change happens when God has a strong hold on us.

We may chafe, doubt and even worry about our lack of progress. We may even think of giving up. But God does not change. God is at work in your life. He will not stop until the job is done. He will do it.

Discussion Questions:
1. Am I failing at this Christian life? Am I succeeding? How do you measure success or failure?
2. Do you believe “He will do it” as 1 Thessalonians says? How has that belief manifested itself in your life? Where have you seen real change in your life since becoming a Christian?
3. How would you rate yourself in being a disciplined person?
4. What do you want most? What do you need to do now to have what you want most?
5. What habit would you change if you could? Why?

”I’ll play these…”

“We are all dealt a hand and we have to decide how to play it.” – Voltaire“

“It’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.” This was a Quote by a man named Randy Pausch. He died of cancer a few years ago, but he said this quote in his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University. There are five cards you are dealt in 5 card stud poker. We will look at each card this week.

The first card is chemistry. Each of us has a chemistry card and it is not because we know the periodic table of elements or we can conduct chemistry experiments without blowing the building up.

There are so many examples. People are born with bad eyesight because his or her parents had a deficiency in their eyes. People have diabetes, high cholesterol, flat feet, and are introverted. And some people are born Auburn fans…OK, I am kidding on that one. I am serious when I say that your chemistry helps make you unique. Chemistry is part of your custom design, and God planned them for his purpose and glory.

Have you struggled with the way the Lord made you in some way? Maybe you have physical traits that you feel are not as pretty as another person’s. It could be that your mental capacity is not as high as people you go to school or work with. You need to remember that God made you in a special way and because of that you should be full of awe and respect for the body or mind He has given you. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14

Here is something we need to remember. These are not spiritual problems. The fact you were born with a low tolerance for pain doesn’t mean you are bad. The things you can’t control, are in God’s control and He knows what He is doing. God understands the chemistry and it’s effect on us. The best thing we can do is to understand that God is in control and accept the chemistry He gave us. I know that is not easy.

But you will never be able to make a change in your life or fulfill God’s purpose for your life until you understand that you are wonderfully complex and uniquely flawed for God’s glory. The question then, is this: What will you do with the chemistry card you’re dealt?

Discussion Questions

1. In your mind, what is the difference between your chemistry card and an ideal chemistry card? How did you determine how and why the card needed changing?
2. In your opinion, how well have you used your cards to date? How can you use the chemistry card better?
3. Despite some people’s opinions, everyone has flaws. How can you use your flaws to bring God glory?
4. Read the following paragraph: Because God is Himself the highest and greatest good, He is also the source and fountain of all other good. He does good things. He extends His goodness to others. It is His nature to be kind, generous, and benevolent, to demonstrate good will toward men, and to take great pleasure in making them happy. Because God is good, He wants us to have what we need for our happiness and He sees that it is available. Does that change how you look at your chemistry card?