Our Problem and Pain

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    DAY 1: A Beautiful Image, A Breathtaking Likeness

    Genesis 1:27-31

    Note: I highly recommend downloading the free Bible Gateway program on your computer and smart phone. It is a great tool for reading Bible passages in many versions. Make sure you add The Message to your preferred Bible translation list.

    The FIRST and FOREMOST Truest Thing About You is that you are created in the image and likeness of God—and what a beautiful image and breathtaking likeness it is! As you read what this means below, stop after each part, take a moment, and be thankful that this is who you are, who you are meant to be, and who you will increasingly be by God’s grace.

    You reflect the moral nature of God. God is love, you are to be loving. God is holy, you are to be holy. God is generous, you are to be generous. Every moral quality of God is meant to be in you as well. So, the moral, ethical life of character is core to being in the image and likeness of God.

    You are made to have meaningful work and a guiding purpose that matters. God is a worker. God is a creator. The instructions God gives immediately to Adam and Eve are about work: Take charge, rule, lead, create, name animals. You are meant to do things that matter. When you can’t and don’t, you will experience dissatisfaction.

    You are a relational being. “Let US make humanity in OUR image.” So, male and female he made them. You are made for relationships of love, respect, value, and security. When you don’t have them, you hurt.

    You have qualities of personhood. In other words, you think, feel, desire, decide, choose, and act. The better you do these things, the better your life is and the more you flourish. When you don’t do these things well, life is more difficult.

    You have a soul-spirit. You have eternity in your heart. You are meant to live forever in beauty, glory, and goodness. You are meant to be in relationship with God. When you are not in relationship you will look in every other place you can to find something big enough to fill that eternity-vastness inside you. But nothing else can.

    This is what it means to be in the image and likeness of God. There is no other  philosophy or religious teaching that has such a profound understanding of what it means to be human… and to be alive. Keep the “spirit” of worship, wonder, praise and awe alive in you all day long.

    DAY 2: A Broken Image, A Distorted Likeness

    Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:1-11

    God made everything and said it was very good. And then we broke the world. First, we broke ourselves, and then we broke the world. That is what SIN does. Sin is when we disconnect from God, when we turn away from God, and when we turn toward anything else. It’s never good when we do that.

    The two passages you read show what it is like to be broken and fallen. It is not that the image of God is erased or destroyed, but it is damaged. It is broken. It is smudged (sometimes very much so). These passages especially reveal how character has become corrupted (from virtue to vice), how relationships have become frustrating, how thinking has become foolish, how emotions have become destructive, and on it goes. That is what sin does to the image of God.

    We are no longer what we are meant to be. At times we keenly feel this. Other times we suppress it, deny it, and ignore it. But it keeps nagging away. There is more. You are meant for more. If you remember The Lion King, that is exactly the message to Simba. You have forgotten. You are distracted by Hakuna Matata. Remember who you are.

    And that is what Jesus does. Jesus shows us who we are meant to be. Jesus makes it possible for us to become who we are meant to be. Jesus empowers us to become who we are meant to be.

    Once we are reconnected with God through our confession and God’s forgiveness, Jesus now takes us on a lifelong journey of recovery and repair. Jesus is doing that very work right now in you.

    Today is a day when the recovery and repair, the restoration and renewal of God’s image and likeness continues. Be sure to notice what you are to do in cooperation with the work of God. What will you do today as you remember, reclaim, and embrace your TRUEST identity?

    It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. (Eph 1:11-12, MSG)

    DAY 3: A Fallen World That is Toxic

    Colossians 2:6-15; 1 John 2:15-17; John 7:37-39

    If you put a freshwater fish in salt water, the fish will die. The water inside the fish will flow out into the toxic salt water, and the fish literally dies of dehydration. Just Google search what happens to a freshwater fish put in salt water and you’ll get the full scientific explanation.

    The same thing happens to us spiritually. We are freshwater creatures and we are swimming in the toxic waters of a fallen world. The toxins literally drain the waters of life out of us. The soul shrivels, the spirit dries up, and the heart withers.

    The world is the ocean in which we swim. It is an ocean of philosophies ideologies, belief systems, and ways which claim to be true, but whose end is dangerous (see Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25). And this is nowhere more evident than knowing who you are (identity), what you are (nature), and why you are (purpose). This is why the Bible has frequent warnings about the fallen systems of the world and tells us to NOT love that world.

    Jesus is the water of life to all who are being dehydrated. When your identity is shriveling and shrinking, Jesus is the one who reminds you of who you are. When the world thinks very little of you, Jesus shows you how highly God thinks of you. When the world tears you down, Jesus shows you the flourishing life of identity, meaning, relationships, and purpose you are meant to have as one who is Imago Dei (in the image of God).

    As you reread these passages, pay attention to who Jesus is, what Jesus does for you, and what Jesus invites you to do to in partnership with him about the renewal of the Imago Dei. Be grateful, pray, connect, and listen to Jesus, the water of life.

    DAY 4: What Happens to a Self That is Not Being Renewed into the Imago Dei (Image of God)

    John 6:68; 8:31-32; 10:10; 15:15-17

    As I spent months reading, reflecting, and preparing for this series on Identity, I came across numerous books and articles that describe what the self is like in 21st century America. Here are the phrases and descriptions (many of them the titles of the book or article) of what sin and the toxic world have done to you (as well as everyone around you).

    • The Angry Self
    • The Alienated Self
    • The Anxious Self
    • The Buffered (Protected) Self
    • The Comparative Self
    • The Competitive Self
    • The Demonic Self
    • The Depressed Self
    • The Disengaged Self
    • The Fractured Self
    • The Fragmented Self
    • The Immoral Self
    • The Impoverished Self
    • The Isolated Self
    • The Lonely Self
    • The Marketing Self (or the Self-Promoting Self)
    • The Narcissistic Self
    • The Photoshopped Self
    • The Phony Self
    • The Unreal Self

    Quite the list, isn’t it? Most of these descriptions are not written by Christians, they are made by thoughtful observers and analysts from all persuasions who recognize, “Houston, we have a problem.” I’ll tweak it and say, “Heaven, we have a real identity problem. The self is in big trouble.” How many of these descriptions apply to your own experience?

    This is why we need Jesus, the words of Jesus, the friendship of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the love of Jesus. Draw close to Jesus. Ask Jesus to make you real, show you who you really are, and show you what you can become.

    DAY 5: What Happens to You When You Don’t Know the Truest Things About You

    Romans 12:2; Psalm 143:8-12

    When it comes to identity, there are many temptations we fall into and many harmful responses we take as we try to create a self.

    • There are masks we wear to hide who we actually are.
    • There are false images we project to impress others.
    • There are games we play to belong to a particular group.
    • There are illusions we maintain to keep up a pretense.
    • There are distortions we accept (without thinking them through).
    • There are lies we believe (and that never works out well).
    • There are trivial things we magnify to become most important than what really matters.
    • There are unworthy things we wrongly prioritize.

    In one form or another, we are all spin doctors engaged in self-promotion. We are all photoshop experts when it comes to making ourselves look better than we are. Think over the above tendencies.

    • What masks do you wear?
    • What games do you play?
    • What illusions do you project?

    The pressure is on and we all feel the pressure every day. We want to be loved, we want to be accepted, we want to be valued, and we want to be safe. And we are not sure we are any of that. So, we work really hard to be someone we are not, to become someone who maybe will be more attractive than the real me. As I said above, that never ends well!

    So, who are you? Who do you want to be? What is it you would most want people to say about you and remember about you at your memorial service? And, when you have thought about that, imagine showing your list to Jesus. What does Jesus say about your list?

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