Labels: What Defines You?

 

Do you have labels that define you that you wish you could change?  I’ve had many negative labels in my past.  Some of those are unloved, unworthy, rejected, inadequate, immoral, divorced, self-centered, lost, and hopeless. The woman at the well shared many of those same labels.  See John 4:1-42 for the full account of her encounter with Jesus.

This is a story that we all know very well.  The really interesting thing about Jesus’ conversation with this woman is that He chose to share the gospel with her.  Jesus was a Jew; she was a Samaritan.  He was a man; she was a woman.  There seems to be no common ground, no reason to talk.  She had something He needed—water.  In asking her for a drink of water, Jesus caught this woman completely off guard.  Jews did not share eating or drinking utensils with Samaritans. The woman could not help wondering why Jesus would ask the unthinkable. His willingness to cast aside cultural barriers got her attention.

Jesus talked to her about the water He could give her that would permanently quench her thirst.  She was quick to admit that she needed what He had to offer.  He called attention to her sin by asking her to go and get her husband.  She responded that she was not married but failed to say that she was living with a man to whom she was not married.  She realized that He had divine knowledge as He told her about her life.

The woman responded to Jesus’ message and immediately went back to town to the very people that she avoided on a regular basis and told them to come and see this man who had told her everything she had ever done.  She responded to Jesus in faith and immediately began to share the truth with others.

The labels which had defined her at the beginning of this story were now transformed and she had new labels!  Perhaps the greatest of these is “Evangelist”.

From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done.’  So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.  Many more believed because of His word;  and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.’  John 4:39-42

 The greatest purpose of our life is to glorify God and share the good news.  This previously outcast woman fulfilled her highest purpose.  How about you?  Many of those negative labels in my life have changed to more positive ones.  You also can change the unwanted labels in your life and fulfill the Lord’s highest purpose for you if you will simply receive Him and share what He has done for you.

About the Writer:
Anna is a mother to three grown children, Nana to four grandchildren and enjoys coordinating Prison Ministry for her church. Her desire is to finish this life well by pointing others to faith in Jesus Christ and to a deeper reliance on Him.

A Letter to My Little Ones

To my sweet little ones,

As I rock you and watch your eyes draw heavier with each blink, I softly hum the tune of ‘this little light’ and imagine the world that you will face as you grow. The pervading distortion of truth and evil can be paralyzing, but I see you being a change-maker. A defender of truth. And a spreader of hope.

In scripture we learn about the responsibility and impact of Timothy’s life through Paul’s letters. Timothy was young relative to other leaders of the church, but God used him mightily to guard and protect the gospel for the early growing church.

You too, my child, are never too young to make an impact on the kingdom. Just as Paul encouraged Timothy, I encourage you, “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for other believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

When we would pray as you grew inside me, our hearts would swell with anticipation as we thought about the promise of Jeremiah.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5

It’s an exciting verse, full of possibilities and the hope that comes with being known and used by God. If you continue that passage, however you see Jeremiah’s concern for being capable and adequate for the role that God had called him to.

But the Lord says to Jeremiah, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you… then the Lord reached out his hand and touched [Jeremiah’s] mouth and said to [him], ‘I have put my words in your mouth.’” (Jeremiah 1:7-9)

These verses were true of Jeremiah and are true of you too. You are known. And you are divinely positioned by God. Qualified or not. Capable or not. Those restrictions are overruled by the fact that God is the One who calls you to your purpose. John 15:16 says “You did not choose Me, but I chose your and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit.”

The deep beauty of both of these passages is that you don’t need to have all of the answers. God will fill that gap for you with conviction through the Holy Spirit, the teaching of scripture, and relationships with mentors in the faith. You are a vessel—a carrier of God’s gift to the world. You are stewarding this gift for only a short time.

Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.  Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.  I Timothy 4:15-16

About the Writer:
Audra is mother to two young children and has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She finds joy in sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important roles.

 

The Calling of Nicodemus: the Born Again Believer

 

Milestones are those moments forever ingrained in your heart — something like a “Kodak Moment” preserved in the memories of your mind. I have many such moments, one of which is when I was baptized.

As a child of 7 years old, I experienced the sensation of the mildly tepid water against my skin, the pleasant humidity in the air; the soft aqua blue of the baptistry gentle on the eyes and giving a certain tenor of calm to the soul. I remember the joy and confidence I felt as our pastor directed my feet to a concrete block set in place specifically for me as I was still too short to see over the edge of our baptismal pool, situated at the head of our church behind the screens that would come down later in the service with the words of our favorite hymns projected upon it. The pastor gave me a moment to affirm my faith in Christ publicly before being immersed in the water as a testimony to others that my old life was dead and I was buried with Christ and made alive in Him in the likeness of His death and resurrection. I recited John 3:16 by memory: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” It was a special moment that I will forever cherish.

As I age and continue to be taught by the Lord, the context of this verse has become even more meaningful. The whole recounting of Nicodemus and Jesus resonates with me. Nicodemus was a man with questions. He was a spiritually educated man, a teacher of the law in fact, and a man with great enough regard for Jesus to seek Him out, recognizing that Jesus offered him something beyond his own mind’s limited understanding. Though he did not yet recognize Jesus as the Christ at the point of this conversation, he was still drawn to this teacher that he knew to be sent from God. Jesus quickly recognized Nicodemus’ desire — to see the Kingdom of God— and just as quickly pinpointed his need — to be born again into a new life given by the Holy Spirit. Jesus quickly identified that this man in front of Him needed to believe He was not merely a teacher sent by God, but the promised Messiah and Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. I love the simplicity of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus:

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  John 3:16-18

 As I read these words above spoken to Nicodemus, I hear Jesus saying to me, “I know you want what I have and to be a part of what I’m doing. You can’t join in unless you are a new person. You can’t be a new person unless the Holy Spirit makes you that person. The Holy Spirit will give you new life, but you must believe that I am the one who dies for your sins so you don’t have to die for your sins and stay dead in those sins. Accept that I love you and I am the One sent to save you. I am the One who died so that you can have eternal life — death and sin were no match for me. Come follow me.”

The next challenge that Jesus left with Nicodemus was this: “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:21).

Personally, I think Nicodemus accepted that challenge well. He spoke up for Jesus when Jesus was being falsely accused without a hearing (John 7:50-51) and he continued to follow Jesus and identify himself as one of Christ’s followers even in the death and burial of Christ.   (John 19:39-42)

As those who have also been born again by the Holy Spirit, we have been given the same challenge:  to associate ourselves with Christ.  Whether it be through believer’s baptism, siding with Christ in difficult conversations, or being the few that don’t give up when God’s plans don’t make sense to us. To follow Christ in the newness of life He gives means to no longer hide our faith under the cloak of darkness, but identifying ourselves with Him in all things big and small.

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life.  At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

What’s For Dinner?

What are some of the most time consuming, stress-inducing life decisions we have as adults?  Finding a job?  Finding a place to live?  These major life events have the ability to create a range of emotions for us, all the way from bursting with joy to wallowing in despair.  When you ask someone why they care so much about these details, more often than not the response would be something along the lines of “So I can provide for my family,” or “So we can have food on the table.”

Why is this a source of major stress for us?  Because we don’t know the future.  We don’t know how a decision is going to turn out.  But I know who does know!  And do you want to hear the best news ever?  He said He is going to take care of those details for us!  Our very future is in His good and capable hands!  This area is the Lord’s responsibility to us as followers of Jesus Christ.  We are to depend fully on God regarding not only these major details, but even down to what we are going to eat each meal.

Here are a few examples of this truth throughout Scripture:

 . . .  that He may uphold the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel according to each day’s need . . . 1 Kings 8:59bNIV

And from Jesus’s own mouth, He asks the Father to “Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

Additionally, listen to what Jesus says to us in Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came up to them and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’

Notice He did not say, “Go find a job, find a house, figure out how you are going to eat, and then also preach the Good News.”

Did you catch the part about how all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus?  Do you think he could probably handle our nourishment?  We are not to be consumed by these details.  The primary purpose of God is to let the world know Who created them, how much He loves them, and that He is worthy of their praise.  He uses us to fulfill that purpose.  As long as we are obeying His commands and His specific plan for our individual lives, He will not let us go in need.

 And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  Matthew 6:28-30

So why would we consume ourselves with details that the Lord said He would do Himself (and do it better)?  Life is hard, but I submit to you that we are making it harder when we strive and worry instead of trusting the Lord.

About the Writer:
Natalie is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Additionally, she occasionally works as an emergency room nurse and is studying to become a Nurse Practitioner. She and her husband have been called into the medical mission field and are excited to see what the Lord has in store for their lives.

I Prefer Chocolate

Genesis 25:27  When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Preference.  It’s what makes us unique and interesting.  To say I prefer chocolate over vanilla, or silver jewelry over gold, is a statement of who I am as an individual.  And while I desire to celebrate my unique preferences, I must remember that preferences can become a slippery slope when they encompass another individual.

Rebekah in the Bible was a woman of preferences. She preferred the jewelry that Isaac’s servant lavished on her to woo her into Isaac’s life. (Genesis 24).  When her family begged her to stay, Rebekah preferred to go, and her family gave their blessing.

After 20 years of suffering infertility, Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21-33). During her months of pregnancy, she suffered much pain, and she prayed to the Lord.  The Lord responded to her, telling her of the two sons she would bear. One would be chosen by the Lord (Genesis 27) to be in the lineage of His kingdom plan, and one would reject the Lord.  It is here that we begin to see that Rebekah’s preferences brought much pain and rejection into her family, You see, Rebekah preferred Jacob over Esau.  Was it because she had heard from the Lord that Jacob would be the chosen one for God’s people?  Or was it because she personally preferred Jacob over Esau? I don’t know the answer.  But either way, the results were the same.  Esau felt rejected by his mother, and Jacob used his mother’s preference to his advantage.

When I read this story, it reminds me that my personal preferences can hurt others.  My preference for certain friends could leave another person out of the circle.  My preference in worship could offend or dissuade another if I degrade other forms of worship.  And how about my preferences for how I spend my free time?  Someone had better not mess with my free time! But what if God has an idea for my free time?  And boom! My preferences have just been challenged again.

So here’s where the truth lies; God made us unique with all our personal preferences in tow. He designed us to be different, and to celebrate those differences with each other.  However, our preferences must not elevate our status against another’s. We should also celebrate those. God is a creative God, forming each of us in our mother’s womb, and giving us the opportunity for expression and admiration of all his unique children.  And most of all, when God calls us to a new place, a new work, or a new challenge, we cannot let our personal preferences take precedence over our obedience to Him.  Stepping out of ourselves and into His plans will bring us to a place of celebration of life, and quiet confidence that he will use our preferences to His glory and great satisfaction.

About the Writer:
Pam Brewer is Director of Women’s Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.