Defining moments… those occasions in life we celebrate, times when we rise to meet challenges and discover our potential. How exciting are the times when our personal success is apparent for the world to see and our trophies are held high on the podium of congratulations! In these moments, we are strong and proud, certain of who we are, and feeling as though we are ready for anything! We can ride a feeling like that for quite awhile, dipping here and there, but still managing to hold on to the moments of victory. During these times, as in others, words of encouragement are a precious gift! When a friend offers us loving support in our efforts, sweetness is added to the victory! You did it! Great going!
Defining moments… those situations where a harsh word comes from someone we respect; or even good advice is offered to us on an area of our weakness. Whether from well meaning friends and family, or the intentional attack of an enemy; hurtful words may cling to us as they come from the spoken heart of another. Suddenly our feelings change, and through these moments, we may see ourselves a bit differently. Our tendency is to dwell on our imperfections anyway, so these stick with us more closely than former words of encouragement. If we constantly hear words of destruction, even the strongest of us will eventually begin to recall only those thoughts in our weak moments. When we question ourselves, and doubts creep in, the negative words will sneak around the positive ones and look for a place to surround and choke them out, like bad weeds invading beautiful flowers. And they will take over if entertained for long.
Words dig at an existing insecurity or remind us of a flaw we have obsessed over for as long as we can remember. The feeling stays. It finds a home in us. We entertain it for dinner and suddenly, wake up to realize it stayed the night. We protect this predetermined place for hurtful words to live and grow inside of us. When they begin to fade, we rehearse them, reminding ourselves of the pain they brought at the time they were spoken. They reside in that old wound where negativity scours us raw, and where we can safely return to hold our occasional pity parties. Grabbing onto pain seems easier, somehow more comfortable, than finding room for the words of love and support.
What defines you?
Defining ourselves by what is happening around and to us is part of what makes us the vulnerable humans we are. Battling our identity, pretending to be someone else when times are tough, running from the truth of our fallibility, drowning in our own sorrows; all of these are part of the human struggle to be identified as the kind of person we can find contentment in being. Yep, self-image is a tricky thing. People talk about ‘finding’ themselves, but if we can lose the “self”, maybe we can begin to live out our true identity. The key part of shedding that “self” part of our image is remembering we are made in the image of God and ultimately meant to be reconciled with Him forever! The “self” melds with Him and His image overtakes us. We are no longer our own and our image becomes about who He is. (Ahhh! Sweet relief. Once again, it’s not about me).
“For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!”
~ Galatians 6:14-16 (MSG)
Defining moments… the times when we BLOW it. Maybe now we feel we deserve those harsh words. Our humanity is exposed and we are offered to the world in the ugliness of our most embarrassing choices. We have failed others, ourselves, our family, and worst of all, maybe it’s OUT there. Everyone knows it. Where do we hide? Maybe you are reading this and thinking, ” I haven’t really done anything that bad.” Maybe not. Maybe your sins have not been so glaringly apparent that you’ve made the news. My mother used to say about the young girls who turned up pregnant before married, God bless those sweet things, having to endure the gossip of the insensitive; ” Don’t think they are the only ones. They just got caught.” What if all we have done in secret were brought out into the light of day? Blinding light glares in your sad, tired eyes. Taken out of the bed and into the streets for stoning. On the ground and at the mercy of the crowds, how can we stand in the moments of our shame?
Defining moments…or maybe we have been wrongfully accused, and an undeserved sense of shame overtakes us; our emotions are overrun with anger for the injustice that is being served to us. Being mistreated by someone who may not know or understand you, or even worse, intentionally diverts the line of fire to you? Possibly in an attempt to save themselves, in the heat of desperation, their destructive nature comes crashing down to wreak havoc on your life!
How could they do this? I don’t deserve to be mistreated this way! I can never forgive this wrong! It’s too much!
“How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21 (MSG)
Yes. The truth of it all is this; sin is sin. Your gossip, someone else’s murder. Your hope for retaliation; someone else’s adultery. Your covetous thoughts; someone else’s actual thievery. Your outright lie; another’s subtle manipulation. Your sugar; someone else’s heroin. Any addiction is still addiction, all lust is still lust, every selfish thought is a thought against God. Haven’t done anything that bad? Living for yourself? Turning your head when someone is in need? Wishing your life was like your neighbor’s life? Kicking someone while they are down?
Realize it or not, but in God’s eyes there is no difference. It’s all the same to Him. And it’s all covered by the blood of the Lamb. ALL of it.
Jesus Christ. Perfect sacrifice of God offered for us.
Undeserved? He bore it. Injustice? He humbled Himself because of it. Shameful behavior? His pure compassion pours out over it.
Doesn’t matter how much or how little. Covered. Asked and answered.
The Savior we all so desperately need has taken care of it all; before you were ever born, and for every sin you haven’t even thought of committing yet, He’s already finished your sentence. Innocent or guilty is not even the question, we are all guilty by association. Human beings are born imperfect beings.
Born with a sin nature, our tendency is toward sin and against the things of God. So guilty. Guilty. GUILTY. Yes. We are.
All in need of forgiveness. All in need of a Savior. And when we find Jesus, understanding that He paid for all of it; we are changed forever.
Defining moments. Christ on the Cross.
And as much as this moment defines Him, it also defines me. Forgiven.
“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” ~ Ephesians 1:6 (NIV)
“So now we can come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of weakness.” ~ Hebrew 4:16 (The Passion)
Time passes. Life goes on. We gather ourselves and move in a new direction. Trusting God for our salvation, we give it to Him and now we live in freedom.
Then the innocent conversation takes place. Maybe we are at church, see someone we know, but can’t quite put them in context. “Who is that?” We may ask our friend or family for help in placing the person. “You remember! That is so and so’s wife! She used to be married to…and they…but then she…remember what they did?” Or “You don’t remember him? He had the…and could never…poor thing, he just … all the time…”
Defining moments. In an instant, your former identity, dredged up from under the blood of Jesus, exposed again, as though your forgiveness had never been accounted for at the Cross. Why do we identify others in the context of their past failures, in the light of their most horrible pain? But we do it. And I know you are thinking about it right now, which is good. Because once I realized this, it changed me. Forever. Just the same as the blood that washed me clean in the face of every disgusting and sickening thought, motive or action I have ever had, it changed me. We must always give this grace to others. Forgiven.
Who defines you?
Son of Man, Son of God
“When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.” ~ Matthew 16:13-19 The Message (MSG)
Jesus asks each of us, “Who do you say that I am?”
And we need to ask the same of Him.
Define me, Lord. Who do you say that I am?
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” ~ 1 Peter 2:9-12 (MSG)
“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.
He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss.
They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” ~1 Peter 2: 21-25 (MSG)
Praise God for Who He Is and all He has done for us!
My hope and my salvation rest in Him.