Whose image do you bear, Caesar’s or God’s?

Whose image do you bear, Caesar’s or God’s?

Thoughts on Mark 12:13-17

image from wildwinds.comApparently, the religious and the politicians were ganging up on Jesus, trying to trap him into making a statement that could wind him up in deep kimchee. They come with flattering words and false faces, but he doesn’t fall for it, he “knows their hypocrisy.”

Jesus, you didn’t fall for theirs and you don’t fall for mine. Sometimes I come to you with proper words and with spiritual-sounding requests, but I’m really trying to get you to do for me what I want you to do for me. My desire is hiding inside the trojan horse of proper liturgy.

Oh Jesus, lord of heaven and earth, thy will be done in my life masks a heart that is not present to the presence of the holy Lord of heaven and earth. What I’m really doing is going through the motions of spirituality hoping you’ll bless me and grant me favor.

You speak to me in the symbol of a coin. Governments stamp a representation of their authority upon their coinage.

Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler. Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people. Don Schwager, Servants of the Word

With whose image am I stamped? To whom do I belong? Who holds sway over my life?

These questions shake me awake. You are not a vending machine, useful for my purposes. I cannot force you to align with the values I hold as precious. I cannot use my power to attempt to acquire the desires of my small, limited life.

“Give to Caesar that things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” I belong to you, your image is etched in my soul. Your will done in my life is truly the best. Let all that belongs to Caesar fall away from me. I give to you what is rightfully yours, my life. Thank you and amen.

Maybe you can relate to my experience.

With you on the journey,

Debby

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Who you are!

You are made by God and you are called good. You are made in the likeness of God and you reflect God’s image. Although this image has been distorted through sin done by you and to you, God has not forgotten who you are and whom God made you to be. God knew you before you were born, named you before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. In love, God has chosen you and the Holy Spirit works ceaselessly to restore the unique God-image you alone can reflect. – The Mentored Life 

At his baptism, Jesus was named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

When you follow Jesus into the anointing waters of baptism, you also are named

  • beloved
  • child of God
  • God’s delight

Every person will express his or her God given identity in a way that is unique to them, but these three names form the essential truth about our identity.

Growing into this identity is the “stuff” of our life of discipleship.

“What God’s voice tells us is the true story of God’s incredible love for us. No other storyteller, however gifted, can paint for us the full, living portrait of who we are and have been and who we are becoming. Let us listen attentively, lest we forget and try to remake ourselves according to some other image.” from Magnificat

“God is who He says He is, and I am who God says I am.” Anonymous

Who are you? You are God’s beloved child, in whom God delights. Enough.

Ensuring acceptance and approval

We continue with our exploration of the important question, “Who am I?” The series begins here.

koolaid

We’ve drank the Kool-aid.

Our families, the feedback we receive from people, the culture and media all conspire to mis-shape us, to convince us, either innocently or intentionally, that who we are is not enough. Sadly, we have come to believe this. Most of us live with a deep-seated, core belief that we are not okay, there is something fundamentally wrong with us.

HOW WE HANDLE THIS

When I was in college there was a popular book written by John Powell, “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?” Powell answered the question for his readers, “because if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am and I’m all I got.”

We have learned to hide the parts of our self that we fear will be rejected and instead we offer the parts of our self that will most likely buy us acceptance and approval (or at least protect us from the pain of rejection.) Why do we do this? Like Powell did before me, I will answer the question for you, “because we have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.”

You believe untruths about yourself. You’ve drank the kool-aid, you are convinced you need to be something more or someone different than who you are. Being unacceptable or undesirable is a pain that must be avoided at all costs. Vows are made that will protect you from relationships and situations that will arouse the pain of feeling unacceptable or undesirable. (Look here for sampling of such vows.) Without intervention, we live by these vows; they falsely promise protection from pain, but they don’t eliminate it, they only postpone it.

Yet God does not let the God-spark within you go dark; a slight and wavering ember of hope remains, announcing truth – you are valuable. Listen to this whisper, it is God’s voice calling you.

With you on the journey,

Debby

This post continues to answer the question Who Am I? which begins here, and is part of a series The New Old which explores six old familiar topics God wants to make new. Join me each Monday for a new installment. I pray our God, the ancient of days, will make a new day for you to enjoy in God’s presence through this series.

What do you contain?

Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

Picture yourself as a piece of molten glass, your form determined by the movement and the pressure of your maker. When your maker is done, you are crystal clear and uniquely shaped. Beautiful to behold and created to contain and display what has been placed within you.

Your family values, spoken and unspoken, your God-given temperament and personality determined the shape of your container; but what do you contain? What information have you stored away? What messages have been absorbed into your identity? Who tells you who you are?

The feedback we receive about who we are and whether or not we are valued has a large influence on the contents of our container; maybe I should say it has a large influence on how we feel about the contents of our container. Others give us pictures of who we are and then we dutifully live into their ideas.

One of my favorite illustrations of this is a story told by Guy Doud, teacher of the year in 1986. He says he didn’t know he was fat until he entered kindergarden. Up until that time, he knew only what his family had told him about himself, he was loved, smart and handsome. In school his classmates told him he was fat, called him chubby and constantly teased him about his weight. These messages were more influential in forming his self-identity than the words he received at home and in church. When he felt bad about always being the last person picked for the kickball team, he would comfort himself with a bowl of ice cream. Told he was fat, he became fat.

For those of you who know me personally, you may be surprised to learn that I was a talker when I was in high school, non-stop chatter was my hallmark. (Please forgive what I’m going to say next, remember it was a long time ago in an era much less politically correct than today.) My Sophomore class raised funds for a school trip by having a “slave auction” (I warned you.) When purchased you had to do whatever your “owner” told you to, within reason of course. I was bought by my science teacher, Mr. Greenberg. As his “slave” he put a piece of duct tape over my mouth and made me wear a sandwich board that read “Supermouth is silenced.” This got me a lot of attention. People expected me to talk a lot, when I did I got noticed, so I committed myself to constant blabbering.

This pattern continued into college, when two popular girls from my church college group quoted their version of Proverbs 27:15 “A talkative woman is as annoying as the constant dripping of a leaky faucet.” They were going to “help” me squelch my talkativeness by simply saying “drip, drip” whenever they thought I was talking too much. Boy, did this shut me up. The world wanted me silenced. I grew quiet and afraid.

God’s voice, speaking of our beauty and belovedness, often gets buried by the influx of images, information and expectations coming at us. But God’s love does not abandon us. God’s inextinguishable spark of life burns within us and by God’s grace burns away all the falsehoods that have entered our souls.

This post continue to answer the question Who Am I? which begins here, and is part of a series The New Old which explores six old familiar topics God wants to make new. Join me each Monday for a new installment. I pray our God, the ancient of days, will make a new day for you to enjoy in God’s presence through this series.

God’s brief autobiography

Fotolia_7105853_XSHere are just a few images of God’s self-description. I will list a few more next Monday.

Comforter 2 Corinthians 1:3,4

From the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “To comfort is to cheer and encourage. It has a positive force as it indicates the dispelling of grief by the impartation of strength.” The comfort God gives does more than just honor and recognize your grief. God comes along side you in your pain (sorrow, sadness, loss) and gives you strength to bear it and hope for a good future.

Counselor Isaiah 9:6

God is wise and gives the best advice about what to do in life’s situations. (And you don’t have to pay $100/session.) Sit still. Quiet your anxious mind. Ignore pestering thoughts. Tell God all about your situation, include the specific details and your emotional reactions to the situation, pour it all out. When you are empty of words and your feelings are neutral, listen to the nudges of the Holy Spirit within you. Prayerfully explore the option. Ask for and look for confirmation, test it with scripture, trusted mentors. Be patient.

Deliverer Psalm 18

After David was rescued from the hands of his enemy, Saul, he sang a song of praise to God. The song included various names that described the relationship between God and David. He called the Lord my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my refuge, my shield, my salvation, my stronghold. Obviously David knew a powerful and caring God. Have you ever felt like David? Up against a powerful force that threatens your well being, your security? Afraid you will not have the strength or resilience to withstand the emotional assault? Like David, call on the Lord in the midst of your distress. He wants to deliver you.

Father of the fatherless Psalm 68:5

You were created to be loved perfectly. And even though your parents loved you the best they could, they fell short of perfection. God loves you with the love of an ideal parent. Your father may have been a wonderful parent, leaving you with an image of a heavenly father’s love; or he may have been a lousy one, creating a hunger for a perfect  parent, either way we are all in need of a spiritual parent that loves and accepts, teaches and corrects, respects and encourages us. We have been adopted into God’s family. God fathers (and mothers) our yearning soul.

To be continued in next Monday’s post.

The series of posts The NEW Old begins here. Join me each Monday as we explore how God wants to make old things new.

God, the bully

judge

 

 

vs

prodigal

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so there’s the true God we love and honor and then there’s the false god, the invisible, yet powerful god that lives in our gut and often dictates our lives.  There is quite a gap and a vast difference between these two G(g)ods. Our allegiance is given to either one or the other: the true God who has earned our love and given us the freedom to obey or the bullying gut god who demands our obedience, falsely promising that we can earn love and acceptance.

Identifying our gut god is essential; doing so illuminates the conflict we face as we pursue a life of discipleship. Maybe you’ve realized your gut god is cruel, or demanding, or unsatisfiable. If so you must ask yourself, “Why in the world would I want to be close to such a god? Why should I trust such an unpredictable god? Do I even like this god? And yet, I’m supposed to love and obey…” Naming our gut god, seeing it for the lie it is, explains the reasons we are not as close to God as our true self desires.

Family history, painful experiences, traumatic events and cultural dictates (even teaching we received in church) has formed this god of ours. We have fashioned a god based on what our history and our culture has taught us god “must be like.” The problem with this is our history is imperfect and our culture is tainted with evil, therefore, our ideas about God are imperfect and tainted. God’s image has been distorted.

We need to let God answer for God’s self about who God is….and he has, he sent Jesus, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets.

  • Is your god distant and aloof? Meet Jesus, who used his own saliva to heal the blind man.
  • Is your god ready to abandon you when you disappoint him? Meet the father Jesus describes who gives all he has to his prodigal son and eagerly awaits his return.
  • Is your god punishing? Meet Jesus, who stayed near the woman caught in adultery when the crowd threatened her with judgment and stoning.

Jesus said, if you want to know what God is like…look at me. We’ve exchanged the truth about God for a lie, we have worshipped the creature we created rather than the Creator. This, my friends, leads to a slow, agonizing death.

Next post we’ll talk about how to return to the truth.

With you on the journey,

Debby