identity

On Your Mark…Get Set Part 4

1280x720 Chopping Cutting Board (BW with Colored Food)

I have to admit that I like to eat.

I also like to cook which is a good thing since cooking is kind of a prerequisite to eating. I also have to admit that there are very few things that I don’t like to eat which does my waistline no favors. As a matter of fact, I can probably count those things I don’t care for on one hand and one of them has only been added to the list in the last two or three years.

Soups are a staple for me, warm and inviting and relatively easy to prepare. One of the favorites in our house is butternut squash soup which my wife and I could nearly eat everyday. Being the adventurous soul, I began to investigate various root vegetables beyond the tried and true staples of everyday life. I found myself holding one of those strange and untested vegetables in my hand one day thinking these ought to be good.

Grabbing a bag, I slipped inside three or four healthy looking parsnips inside and couldn’t wait to get home and try them out.

Now I know there are very nice and well-adjusted people out there who absolutely love parsnips.

I am not one of them.

I want to be, I really do. And I attempted twice to make them edible, both times using them as ingredients in a hearty vegetable soup.

MISTAKE!

In both instances, my wonderful soup lost the vibrancy and marvelous blend of assorted vegetables and seasoning. Gone were the earthy flavors and onion and garlic, celery and carrots.  Gone was every tasteful distinctiveness which defined what I was hoping for in the soup.

All that was left was a pot of various vegetables, broth and seasoning which all tasted like parsnips. The identity of parsnips was so strong that I could have easily left out all the other vegetables and not even realized it.

The world is becoming stranger everyday as the pot boils and the identities of so many become lost to the pungency of geographic, scientific, societal and political parsnips.

1280x720 Identity Foil Man (Identity Identity Identity Identity)

The world and the dark enemy behind it takes great joy in stripping away the distinctiveness of who and what you are. If ever one could point to a great conspiracy, it is here, for Satan has been at this from the beginning. Do you remember? Do you even know?

Our first mother Eve was approached by the deceiver whose silver tongue tempted her in a way which took issue with her identity and distinctiveness as a human being, created by God for his purpose and his glory. Playing upon her emotions, he introduced doubts as to what God said and her role as a member of the human race by offering her the tantalizing idea that she could be exalted and changed. He cleverly drove a wedge by telling her that God was holding something back, but that he the serpent had the answer and was willing to give it to her. He claimed that he had the key to the secret knowledge which would unlock the hidden truth within her—that she could be as God.

All she had to do was disobey what God said.

After all, she was being held back by God. He hid the truth from her, keeping her caged in ignorance and forcing her to live in innocence and purity. Her mind became clouded and new feelings crept in, feelings strange and unfamiliar, stirring an increasing hunger—a craving to change—a desire to break free. Flushed with this newfound idea, planted in her as an itch which just had to be scratched she made her decision. Eve decided to listen—not to God who kept her down and locked her away in her frail human cage—but to the twisted lies of a creature who promised her liberation and who has been in the business of deceiving human beings ever since.

But mind you, he doesn’t come to you in the form of a serpent telling you to go ahead and pluck the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And yet—though his methods are cleverly veiled behind what may appear as progressively acceptable behavior, it is the same lie repeated  ad nauseam. These lies convey the same core message but do so wearing different clothes and speaking different languages. They are hidden in the corporate office and they are hidden within families and relationships. They are hidden in the boardroom, the bedroom, your house and the White House. There is no wall high enough nor ocean-wide enough to keep them in check. Science and industry, education, media—religion—nothing has escaped his insidious touch and his remarkable influence.

His lies are everywhere, initiated by him then propagated and nurtured like a communicable disease by those who have fallen under his sway. How much effort and how successful has he been in convincing the world that we are nothing special—that we haven’t been created by God in him image, but have instead evolved right along side every other life-form on this planet? He wants you to believe that you are no more distinctive than any other mammal on the earth, only more evolved with our intellect, reasoning and language capabilities.

Satan will use whatever means he has at his disposal to dissolve your distinctiveness as a marvelous and splendid creation of God. He will use education and rationalization much in the same way that he did with Eve, promising knowledge and with that knowledge the key to a marvelous and wonderful future. He plays upon the intellect, stroking the cords of pride with the offering of knowledge attainable and success achievable. He plucks the strings of pleasure with one hand while instigating the chaos of crisis with the other.

His ploy is to isolate you from the truth, then fill your life, your thoughts, your memories and your dreams with his own propaganda. He works very hard to mold and shape you into his own image and likeness, all the while convincing you that what he offers is truth and what God offers is a lie.

Have you seen his efforts at blending the world? Have you watched the geopolitical landscape as borders are being erased, languages put aside, monuments torn down and history rewritten? Have you witnessed the collapse of long-held institutions under the crushing pressures of ever evolving social mores and political correctness? Single sex clubs are being run out-of-town with pitchforks and clubs at a rate only surpassed by churches dropping the Word of God as the final authority in all matters related to the spiritual lives. The losers of contests are rewarded while those who excel are often vilified. Students demand the abolishment of grading standards and mid-terms while they huddle in their trigger-free zones. Wealth accumulation and business acumen are eyed with disdain, while the sociopolitical activists exalt thugs and criminals while attacking law and order.

White people claim to identify as black people. Tall men identify as short Chinese women. Marriage is rapidly becoming whatever anybody wants it to be, and you better brush up on your new vocabulary for pronouns are going to be a big in thing since the world seems to have forgotten the differences in the sexes and the roles of genders.

Satan has been able to redefine marriage and even what distinguishes people in terms of sex and gender.

Even our bathrooms have fallen in the war.

What has long been called the culture wars could be best summed up this way: the progressive removal of all distinctiveness, whether it be wealth, education, language, borders, marriage, sex, gender and even species. And if you cannot grasp that last item think about over the top protections afforded certain animals, ethicists which believe that human-animal sexual relations should be accepted and even the advancing genetic world where barriers between humans and animals are falling by the wayside.

Hmm? It almost sounds like things the Bible has been warning about for centuries are really starting the manifest themselves.

But not everyone is wildly caught up in these things, and yet they too often suffer with a loss of distinctiveness and identity confusion. How much self-hatred is there out there? How many people struggle and unexplained anger, bitterness, depression and hopelessness. How many are lost in this world, unloved and perhaps if they were honest not even understanding what true love is? How many of us view ourselves in terms of our failures? How many of us are better at forgiving others than we are ourselves?

How many of us live in constant pain in our souls, unable to find our way out, and in an attempt to dull the sharpness of the pain, medicate ourselves by drugs, alcohol, gluttony, pornography or a number of other methods?

There are so many ways that Satan attacks.

There are so many ways that we can be knocked down and defeated.

It is at the place where we have been hurt so many times and knocked down over and over and over again that we often give up. I’ve heard it, and you have heard it too. Maybe you have even succumbed to it, accepting the lie as truth believing that if you do, you will find the peace and the rest that you long for. It makes no difference how that is manifested in your life. If you yield to an identity that is different from what God says, you have taken the bait.

Identity confusions can take hold and entrench themselves in your life and for the believer in Christ they will seriously impede your race if not taking you out of the race altogether. But whether you are a believer or not, identity problems can really wreak havoc on your life.

And by the way, if your identity is not what God says it should be, you are a victim to Satan’s devices.

But you don’t have to remain a victim, but instead can find your life turned into victory. It doesn’t matter where you are, who you think you are or what you have done, there is a confident hope available for you. If you are a chunk of carrot or a piece of celery that tastes like parsnips the pot doesn’t have to be dumped. God can sort through the mess and restore you as you were meant to be—as he created you.

Next time, let’s put aside what Satan and the world has to say on this matter and see what God has to say.

Rollin Miller

 

Identity Crisis Bar (700x64)

…line upon line; here a little, and there a little…

 

 

On Your Mark…Get Set Part 3

1280x720 Black Faceless Man in Black (Identity

 

Who am I?

That’s an important question considering how my identity can either be a benefit or detriment to my life.

Proper identity is vital in our lives as it affects how we think about ourselves and others and significantly impacts the choices we make. While I will be primarily talking about my identity crisis in life, I hope that you will find yourself taking a closer look in your own lives. To varying degrees, wrong identities have impacted people around the world and down through the centuries. I would be surprised if it hasn’t in some way impacted you.

A series of crises became the impetus for change in my life as is often the case with people. I had grown increasingly tired and frustrated with the way I saw myself and the struggles—the constant struggles and failings which over the years had latched hold of me and morphed into my already distorted identity. While I did experience bright spots along the way, the overall arc of my life was marked by failure and the frustration which followed. I saw little satisfaction and virtually no rest—only agitation and intensifying anxiety. I knew that I was in trouble and only the Lord could fix me.

The trail up to that point was pretty messed up and I just couldn’t see my way out of it. Born and raised in a Christian home, my father was a pastor and I accepted Christ at a pretty young age. If you asked me to pin down the date or at describe the moment I can’t. As long as I can remember I have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior. But when I left home, I left Christ on the bookshelf along with my Bible and for the next several years I had little to nothing to do with God, apart from extreme moments of stress or depression, where a few verses came bubbling up from memories long past.

It wasn’t until I was about 40 that things began to unravel to the point where I knew that I had to get back to God. Picking up the phone, I called my dad and asked if he could come to Vegas and spend some time with us. He asked me if he needed to pack his truck with tools as he was accustomed—to put in some cabinets, pour a slab or lay some tile. I told him that I didn’t want him to come to work on projects, but to come as a pastor. The only tool he packed was his Bible.

That was nearly twenty years ago.

Since that visit, my life has been in pursuit of Christ amidst struggles—painful and difficult struggles. I embraced the things of God with a deep and insatiable hunger for him, though I was not at all prepared for the reflection I would see when God held the mirror in my face. My calloused flesh gripped tightly, dragging me deeper into the collapse of ruin which was made all the more possible by deeply rooted strongholds. Planted early in life, they remained for the most part hidden away—eggs buried in the drought-cracked soil. My life had all the signs of lifeless soil where it appeared that nothing could possibly grow.

But then, after years of drought, baking in the hot sun, dark clouds inexplicably gathered, pushing the sun out of view and released a torrent of rain not seen in decades. When the flash-floods subsided and the standing water receded into the parched soil, life emerged—strange creatures pushed through the shell of their eggs and crawled on to the hard surface, moving from one shallow puddle to another. I looked at them with a bewildered look, realizing that I wasn’t looking at some patch of desert but my life.

But how could this be? How could someone, a born again child of God have such dreadfulness inside of him? I tried to look away from the mirror but everywhere I turned, my sin was ever before me. No amount of confession or prayer seemed to provide sufficient consolation to my troubled soul and I began to question everything about who I was and even what I was. My wretched revelation put me at odds with my God for how could God really love me when I hated and detested myself so much? How could God really forgive me when I could not even forgive myself?

The grace of God.

It rolled off my tongue.

I thought I knew what it was. I thought I had grasped it, at least to whatever extent a human being apart from eternity could.

I knew that I had been forgiven and approved by God. I knew that I was a new creation—blameless, perfected and yet I continued to be pulled back into the anger, the emptiness and the anxiety of the darkness. I collapsed under the weight of my burden, a spiritual and mental mess. The relentless attacks began seeding doubts as to my salvation and at times my sanity. But by God’s grace it could not take away the eternal hope I have in Christ.

Upon the altar I crawl, with a broken heart and a yearning to be transformed and set free, grasping the light of God’s mercy with trembling hands and thankful for the periods of spiritual respite. But the darkness returned as it always did, and I knew that failure was not far behind. How clever the enemy is to capitalize on my circumstance, to reinforce my bewilderment and dismay. He loves to twist the truth of our identities. He has done so from the beginning when he tempted our first parents with a new and diabolical identity—you shall be as gods.

I understood with grim reality the words of Paul when he asked the question:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:24 NASB

How I longed to breathe the fresh air of freedom, resting in my Lord to deliver me from the darkness which had overtaken me. I knew that such a life was possible, for I believed what the Bible said. Yet I frequently found myself on the outside looking in wondering why I could not put off the deeds of the flesh with any consistency. Year after year passed by as I listened, I studied and I prayed with glimmers of light piercing the cloud, only to find myself back in the mud yet again.

One thing that rang consistently in my life was this:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. Romans 7:18 ESV

And that very flesh, though crucified with Christ still had a stranglehold on me.

I was bound and chained in darkness and I cried out to him again and again and again.

1280x720 Christian Dark Concrete Wall (Psalm 107)

And then, by the grace of God, He heard me.


If you grew up in the days I did, many of the things we played with seem out-of-place with today’s generation of XBox and Playstation fans.  Those were the days of board games, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets and marbles. My sister, being 6 years older than I had little patience for a kid brother like me, and we spent much of our times chasing each other through the yard and the house when we weren’t arguing and fighting. But when things settled down or the weather wasn’t cooperating, we often found ourselves involved with a game of Jacks or Pick-up Sticks on the porch or kitchen floor.

I am not certain which characteristic would be most important in a game like Pick-up Sticks, but I think that besides having a steady hand, patience would be right up there. That’s probably the reason I didn’t win very often. Better for me to be back in my room, building something new with my Erector Set or outlining airplanes on a pad of paper.

The Lord is sovereign and it is He who chooses the game and establishes the rules for our lives. His game as it is unfolding in my life appears to be a lot closer to Pick-up Sticks than Erector Sets.

Each piece or step which he orders in my life (Psalm 37:23) has to be accomplished in the proper divine sequence which only God knows and with the care only He can provide. While the work God is doing may at times seem slow and tedious, rest assured and be confident of this very thing, that God which has started a good work in each and every one of us will continue steadfastly in that work until we see our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

Oh and by the way, God’s hand never shakes as He moves the pieces.

I hope you come back for the next post as we begin to go through some of the strongholds (weights) which ensnared me and were hidden until the Lord began to pick through the rubble of my life and show it to me piece by piece.

Rollin Miller

 

Identity Crisis Bar (700x64)

…line upon line; here a little, and there a little…