Consider identity – what you believe about yourself at the core of your being – how was it formed? I can’t help but believe that the beginnings of what we believe is formed very early in life by significant adults. This includes parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, neighbors, aunts, uncles, cousins.

As we move into adulthood, the responsibility to re-form a healthy identity lies with the individual. Regardless of what we experienced in the past, we get to write the next part of the story. We get to choose what it looks like, how it proceeds, how it ends. And in this process, I see two paths.

We attempt to conquer the world and from our performance, form an identity. In this way, our identity depends on maintaining a high level of performance.

OR

We form an identity based on what God’s word says, and from this place of security, we successfully conquer the world. Our identity is secure in the foundation of truth, not performance.

Where are you? Does your identity depend upon your continued good performance and contribution to something? Or is your identity firmly fixed in what God says about you?

Tomorrow we will look at an example of both…

Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

John 13:1-5

Jesus knew who he was, where he came from and where he was going. And it was from his IDENTITY as the son of God that he lived the way he did. He didn’t fear rejection, lack of love, not belonging, being misunderstood, insignificant or purposeless. Ultimately, he is the best example of someone who understood what it meant to achieve MORE!

Identity is a big concept and deserves to be defined. It is not uniqueness but a fundamental belief about who we are at the core of our being. It is how we define ourselves and what we believe to be true about ourselves.

How do you define yourself? It’s important to take note of as every other endeavor we pursue is impacted by our identity. Do you know who you are? Where you are going? Where you came from?

Today as you enter worship, or contemplate your day, invite Jesus into your thoughts. What is it you need today? Set your intention, check your posture, and prepare to receive. He is in the business of renewal.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Romans 12:1-3

What part of this scripture stands out to you today? Take it with you into your worship service and ask Jesus what he wants to say about it today.

If you are like me, there are times when you have muttered under your breath, or perhaps shouted at the top of your lungs: “There has to be more than this!”

And you are right. We are made for more. More than just breathing but not really living! Sometimes we get in our own way. We decide we are beyond help, beyond hope.

If that is you, then my prayer is that this song will help turn you toward hope again.

Read: Ezekiel 37:1-14

This scripture is the account of Ezekiel’s ecstatic experience where he was led by the spirit of God in a vision to a valley full of dry bones. The purpose was to reveal to Ezekiel the true condition of the hearts of the Israelites in captivity.

There are several things of note in this vision. First, the situation looks entirely impossible. God asks Ezekiel if these dry bones can be made alive again. Ezekiel takes a look around, noting that the bones are completely dried out and answers wisely. “Only you know, O Lord.” It looked impossible.

Secondly, the Israelites had lost hope. They were far away from their homeland, separated from their place of worship and everything they called their own.

God’s message to Ezekiel: this situation isn’t hopeless. I am going to restore these people to their homeland and they will know peace again. But that wasn’t all. In Ezekiel 36:25ff, he says he will give them new hearts. He will replace their unresponsive, stony hearts, with tender, responsive hearts of flesh. And then he will fill the people with his spirit.

Today your situation might look impossible and you have lost hope that anything will ever be different. But God has you in mind. Impossibility to you is possible to him. And his work is complete. He will give you a new heart and restore your good name.

Perhaps the recording in your mind is playing hopeless, desperate words. Change what you listen to and remember that God is always working on your behalf. Here are a few passages to get your thoughts turned around.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last… yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

Job 19:25-27

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:26-28

First, you must set your intention by answering Jesus’ question, “What do you want me to do for you?” And then position yourself to receive. This is best illustrated by Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Read it now:

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

In order to receive from the Father, our position needs to be one of humility and surrender. Nothing we receive from him is because of our own good works or because we deserve it. In Ephesians 2:4-8, Paul makes it clear that salvation is a gift from God; we don’t earn it or deserve it. A proper understanding of our need for his work in our life is necessary if we wish to see significant change.

What about you? Do you tend to stand afar off and look down on others because you are just a bit more righteous? Do you count on your own good works to pay a portion of your redemption? Or do you come completely dependent on Jesus’ work on the cross?

Set your intention and then posture yourself to receive by recognizing your deep need for redemption and forgiveness.

I spoke at a women’s retreat this past weekend. It was a wonderful group of beautiful women gathering to hear from their Father. We worshipped, ate and crafted together and, of course, circled up around the word of God.

Friday evening I spoke on preparing ourselves for a move of God. It is much like learning to participate in a sport. In order to be effective in a sport, you have to learn how to prepare yourself to catch the ball, block the goal, tackle the runner, spike the ball or return the volley. The first element in preparing yourself is to set your intention.

Setting your intention is simply answering the question: why are you here? What do you want from this time spent together? Read the scripture below and then answer Jesus’ question.

Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.” So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

Mark 10:46-52

Perhaps you are in a desperate place right now, crying out for Jesus to come close to you. Notice how the crowd responded to Bartimaeus – they told him to be quiet. In other words, sit down and shut up! Jesus doesn’t have time for you right now.

I bet Bartimaues often felt like he was in the way, that others didn’t have time for him. But notice what Jesus did when he heard his cry for help. “When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, ‘Tell him to come here’.”

I believe Jesus is stopping and inviting you to come close today. As he looks intently into your eyes, he is asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I believe there is something really important about verbalizing what we need from Jesus. It helps bring clarity and also prepares us for the move of God. When we see him “restore our sight,” we know it is Jesus that touched us.

Take heart, friend, he’s calling you to come to him! What do you want him to do for you?

Stepping out of the chaos means I take note of my breath. Listening as I breathe in and out, knowing that the presence of breath is evidence of God’s spirit in me.

Another way I step out of the chaos of life is by reminding myself that Jesus holds all creation together. At times it feels like life spins out of control, but in reality it is carefully regulated by the hand of God. Check out this evidence:

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth…Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

Colossians 1:15-17

The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command

Hebrews 1:3

When I consider the uncertainty of life, I wonder how to find the balance I need to prevent succombing to the chaos. A dancer maintains balance by finding a focus point. By directing the eyes toward a spot on the wall or a light at the back of the theater, a dancer can keep her balance longer. But her eyes cannot be on the floor, they have to be lifted upward and maintain an outward focus.

That reminds me of Peter when he walked on the water toward Jesus. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he maintained balance in spite of the storm. As soon as he looked down, he sunk. (see Matthew 14:22-31)

If you are finding your life to be out of balance, a bit chaotic and overwhelming, try the following. Pause and listen for your breath. Let it be noisy as you take it in and out. God is still with you. Then fix your eyes outward and upward, toward Jesus, the one who is holding all of creation together. And rest in him.

I am enamored with breathing. Every breath I take means one more moment of life. The last couple of days I listen to my breath coming in, going out. And I think about my Creator.

Genesis 2 says it like this:

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

Genesis 2:7

Every breath I take reminds me that I am filled with the very spirit of God. It gives me confidence and courage. It settles me into the day.

He is as close as my breath. I invite you to make that your mantra today. “He is as close as my breath!”

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:8-13

Solomon’s conclusion of all his searching is this:

That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.

Ecclesiastes 12:12

Pretty simple, isn’t it? In all his searching and trying different paths to find meaning in life, in the end he determined that to fear God and obey his commands is the best we can do. And in this, we will find all the meaning we are looking for. It is in this that the core longings of our hearts will be met.

Are you looking in all the wrong places for meaning and fulfillment? What about returning to the basics? Fear God and obey his commands. Scripture tells us that “his commands are not burdensome.” In the first letter of John, he writes it like this:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:1-5

And that is definitely the secret to finding meaning in life.