Identity Theft Protection

black-and-white-device-equipment-163017

 

Unfortunately, identity theft is rampant these days. The motivation behind identity theft is to assume the legal authority to transact business secretly on behalf of the victim for the purpose of personal gain. We go to great lengths to protect our identity from scheming thieves in order to preserve our personal, legal and financial standing.

Are we even aware that the evil one, the father of all lies (John 8:44), has as his main purpose to steal and destroy our identity in Christ (John 10:10)? Do we recognize his tactics and make as much effort efforts to protect our eternal identity in Christ as we do our earthly wealth and right standing?

Enemy Tactic #1. We know ourselves all too well. We remember the sins from our past and recognize the self-centered, self-protecting motivations in the present to keep the knowledge of those sins hidden. (God already knows!) Satan is all too happy to remind us of our sins, heaping on guilt and shame to convince us of our unworthiness before the LORD.

The antidote for this tactic is to agree with God that through Jesus He has separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and in Christ has made us perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). As we allow the LORD to release His perfect peace into our hearts and memories over anything hurtful that we have done or that was done to us in the past, the fruit of that peace is true freedom from the perceived dishonor of unworthiness (Philippians 4:7).

Enemy Tactic #2. The idol of self and the pride of life blind us from knowing who we are in the Kingdom of God (1 John 2:16). Our culture tells us that we only live once, so we must “make the most of it,” in order to find personal significance and satisfaction. Hence we define ourselves and the perception of our worth by our professional careers, through our kids’ accomplishments, and so many other standards that are not from God. Contemporary media encourages the development of personal platforms to radiate a “glorified persona,” so that the world won’t know the reality of what someone is truly like on the inside. We become convinced that if we don’t look and live like superstars, we have somehow failed at life. Comparison is surely the thief of our joy as we trod the pathway of trying to become something that we were never intended to be, exhausting ourselves in the process. We live out of the fear that if people really knew us, they probably wouldn’t like us very much, always striving to be loved for how we are known by others (Proverbs 29:25).

We break free from the cycle of seeking love and acceptance by others’ opinions of us by agreeing with God that we are His masterpieces, created in Christ for good (Ephesians 2:10), knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in God’s image and that is very good (Genesis 1:27 & 31). As we begin to love ourselves—not in a narcissistic, self-aggrandizing way, but by agreeing with God that we are worthy of His love (1 John 4:16)—He can begin to strip away the cultural lies and the self-loathing that we have agreed with for far too long. A true friend is someone who knows our song and can sing it back to us when we forget who we are. Ask God for a friend who will challenge you in loving ways to see yourself as God sees you and to agree to receive His good and perfect love!

Enemy Tactic #3. This third enemy tactic is the most insidious and similar to Tactic #2 because it keeps the focus on ourselves spiritually. It is good to recognize that having accepted Christ, each of us is a child of God (John 1:12), redeemed (Galatians 3:14), heirs to all of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20), and we get heaven instead of hell when we die (John 3:16). But when salvation and how God can make my life better in the here and now become the primary focus of our faith, we fall short of the fullness of what it means to be “in Christ.”

Becoming saved is just the beginning – the “key to the Kingdom.” God’s Word says that the fullness of His Son (Ephesians 3:19), His immeasurably great power (Ephesians 1:19), and all of Christ’s authority over the devil and every form of darkness (Luke 10:19) belong to those who are His, for the purpose of demonstrating and advancing His Heavenly Kingdom in the earth (John 14:12). His Word also says that as we fix our eyes on Christ, we become transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18), and that we are “like him” in the earth (1 John 4:17).

Only when we know who we are in Christ can we truly act like ourselves. May Jesus Himself cause us to know ourselves seated in Him on His throne (Ephesians 2:6), one with Him and the Father (John 14:20), seeing His eternal perspective on all of life’s circumstances, and exercising the fullness of who we are in Him so that we may indeed see His glory, radiating through us, covering the earth as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Let’s invest in God’s identity protection plan for ourselves and others by overtly transacting Kingdom business in such a way that all may understand the good news of who they were created to be in Him!

Powerful or Powerless Christians?

Lion

 

How strong is a lion? In one blow of its paw, a lion can demolish a bear, horse, cow, or Siberian tiger; it can break a 2 x 4. Lions have excellent night vision, well able to see through darkness. The scriptures refer to our Lord as the “Lion of Judah,” (Revelation 5:5), and to us as possessing His same power (Ephesians 1:19, John 14:12).

The challenge for us today is to overcome the poverty of understanding and experience related to the Good News of the Gospel! So often, the Good News is restricted to the point of salvation with great relief that eternal “fire insurance” has been guaranteed. While many self-identify as Christians, in our contemporary culture, there can be little evidence of the personal transformation promised in Christ resulting in an abundantly powerful life to all who call Him “Lord.” Salvation is merely the key that opens the door to the fullness of Christ dwelling in each of us (Colossians 2).
“The gospel is the Good News of the presence and availability of life in the kingdom, now and forever, through reliance on Jesus the Anointed” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy). According to Romans 14:17, the kingdom of God is characterized by righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit—the agent of God’s powerful presence indwelling us. Have we determined daily to live fully aware of His presence? Does the barometer of our peace and joy depend on our presenting circumstances or do we allow the LORD to show Himself faithful to every one of His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20)?

Knowing that the unconquerable Lion of Judah cares deeply for us, never leaves us
or forsakes us, and empowers us to usher His Kingdom into the earth, we must recognize that the power to overcome every slice of darkness is fully available to us all!

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and everything that
does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:22). So then, do we trust Him
sufficiently to live out the truth of those Scriptures? May the Lion of Judah cause us
to rise up into all that we are in Him so that the world may see His manifest power
and glory in this age as well as in the age to come!

Kingdom First

Seek First

The Kingdom of God, also referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven, was the primary focus of Jesus’ teachings. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to “Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness.” To seek means to make effort to find or achieve something. So what exactly are we looking for and where is it located?

Jesus made it clear that His Kingdom was near (Matthew 3:2), and in fact, it exists within those who believe in Him (Luke 17:21), given that it is a spiritual Kingdom. God’s eternal Kingdom rules universally over all things (Psalm 103:19), transcending all time and all space.

To find the Kingdom, we must enter it as little children (Mark 10:13-16), realizing that we humbly accept His work in us by grace. Repentance, our agreement with God that His ways are better than the world’s, along with belief in Christ, lead a person to a spiritual birth and entrance into the Kingdom (Matthew 3:2; John 3:3-5).

Once in the Kingdom, we live an empowered life! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have access to a life of love, joy, and peace. As we abide in Christ like a vine connected to the branch, we are able to joyfully obey God’s direction (John 15:5-12) and put to death the evil desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).
Doing God’s will is evidence that we are living from within the Kingdom (Matthew 7:21).

Our Kingdom lives are about growing in our dependence upon the Spirit—our source of power for godly living. By following the Holy Spirit, our daily wants and cares are replaced by a greater concern for the eternal destination of mankind. Do the matters of Jesus’ eternal Kingdom occupy the greatest place in our hearts and minds? When our primary concern is whether or not God has supremacy authority in our lives, we’re putting the kingdom first.

God’s Word says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).”

Who does God say YOU are?

Identity

We often hear quoted that we are “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 15). So who exactly are we once we know Jesus? Ephesians 6:17 holds a clue, instructing us to “take the helmet of salvation.” During hand-to-hand combat during biblical days, the only way to tell who was friend or foe was by the armor they were wearing. The same is true when the Dawgs play football. Each team wears a unique helmet color and uniform. Once on God’s team, our helmet of salvation reminds us of who we are because of whose we are. The victory is in knowing our identity because of the gift of salvation.

Consider Jesus. Because He knows who He is, he was able to willingly lay down His life and take it back up again (John 10:17-18). The Father told Him at His Baptism, “This is my son.” So the enemy’s efforts to derail Him in the desert with the question, “IF you are the Son of God . . . “ (Matthew 4:3) did not succeed because Jesus’ identity was clear to Him.

Then there’s Gideon. We find him threshing grain in a winepress because he is afraid the Midianites will steal the crop (Judges 6). And yet the angel of the LORD greets him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon thinks, “Seriously!?” Because He doesn’t recognize his own identity as a “mighty warrior,” he has not been acting like who God says he is.

Don’t miss the key to Gideon’s identity—“The Lord is with you.” The key to knowing his full potential is an understanding that God is with him. In our days, Jesus is not only with us, all of His fullness lives in us (John 14:20)! And He tells us that we are to be “as He is in this world” (1 John 4:17), commissioned to do even greater things than He accomplished as the Son of Man (John 14:12). Further, in anticipation of our doubts, He promised, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Are we living out of the fullness of our God-given identity by walking in the power and purposes of the One who calls us, or are we allowing fear to keep us from our futures? Our identity realizes its definition within God’s incomparable self-sufficiency.

We do not live the Christian life in our own power, but in God’s. It is God’s ability that makes us able to accomplish anything of value, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). It is His strength that makes us mighty, valiant warriors. If we fail to regularly remember who God is, what He has done, and what He is going to do, we will make decisions based on what we can accomplish without Him and never understand the incredible nature of who we are when our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

When we come to a full understanding of who God says we are, we will begin to act like
ourselves.
Who does God say YOU are?

Where is the “Good” in the News?

Romans 839 God moved our family to Watkinsville from Michigan in 1999. For over a decade after the transition, my heart deeply grieved the pain of being separated from every friend and family member we had ever known.  While the call to relocate was clear, I could not understand why He would send us so far away.  Every time we returned home to visit, saying good-bye all over again only served to exacerbate the separation pain.

During one of those anguishing, tear-filled farewell moments, the Lord impressed strongly on my heart that the separation pain I was feeling is the same way He feels for all time for every person that is separated from Him.  That pain was intended to motivate me further to serve His Kingdom agenda and not my own. 

In more recent days, we learned that our son’s best friend, a strong Christian, husband, and father of four took his own life.  Circumstantial hopelessness that leads to suicide has become a rampant epidemic. The perpetual increase in mass shootings is beyond belief. From the death of a loved one to the impacts of suicide and mass murder, our entire nation is feeling unprecedented separation pain.  That pain is coupled with an unspoken fear as we recognize our personal inability to control others’ choices and the resulting, soul-crushing impacts.

So how are we as believers to respond in our hearts and with our lives when it appears that evil and darkness are winning the battle?  We PRAY.

Like Nehemiah, we first repent on behalf of the sins of our entire nation because of all of the ways that our culture has fostered hatred and division. Jesus prayed that we would be one—as close to one another as He is to the Heavenly Father (John 17:11 & 21). And yet, attitudes of “us” against “them” permeate our culture. We expend extraordinary time and energy fighting against one another, forgetting that the real, greater battle is against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).

Do we recognize that those who harm anyone made in God’s image have been taken captive by satan to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26)? We must ask God to forgive those who have exercised their freedom to choose in ways that have resulted in such tremendous pain, and to give them His gift of repentance.

Through prayer, we entreat God’s protection from the evil one (John 17:15; Matthew 6:13).  But when sudden loss does happen, God’s servant Job provides a stunning example of our response as those who believe in His Name (Job 1: 20-22). First, we grieve appropriately.  And then we rob the enemy of his joy by not allowing him to steal ours.  No matter what our earthly eyes see, we praise God.  We leave our “Why?” questions at His feet and thank Him for eternity where the matter of evil, loss, pain, sin, sickness despair and every sorrow will be redeemed for His glory.  We thank God for His unending goodness even in those moments when we cannot make sense of such painful tragedies.

God’s peace that surpasses all understanding is the most powerful weapon against evil. Let’s pray to release God’s peace into every circumstance where there is hatred, turmoil, or hopelessness.  Let’s also ask God to release His perfect peace into every place where our own hearts are hurting and afraid. May He return us to the joy of knowing that we are His (Psalm 51:12) so that we are able feel, think, act, and speak like who we are because of whose we are.

There is a fate worse than death.  That fate is eternal separation from God (Luke 13:1-5).  May the separation pain we feel today, understood in the context of God’s great love for all of mankind, be the jet fuel that propels us to share the Good News that only Jesus HAS and IS the answer to every problem, question, and painful situation we face.

–Dr. Marcia Wilbur, ACMin President

For Freedom Christ Set Us Free!

4th of July

As our nation prepares to celebrate its independence from England, we are reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a country where we are free to live, love, work, and worship. Our hearts are thankful for past and present generations of brave souls who have ensured and protected those freedoms.

In Galatians 5:1 we read, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Because Jesus died on the cross, as believers, we can celebrate our independence every day, having been set free from satan’s dark kingdom into God’s everlasting Kingdom!

Do we stop to consider that while the majority of people living in the U.S. enjoy daily political and cultural freedoms, without Christ, they remain in a form of everlasting bondage? Are we fighting as hard for unbelievers to be set free from the yoke of eternal slavery as we are to protect our personal civil rights?

For starters, why would an unbeliever even want to convert to Christianity? All too often, being a Christian is understood by onlookers as being a bunch of stuffy, judgmental, rules-restricted, hypocritical church-goers. Christians appear to be anything but free with all the rules and rituals.

May the LORD cause us to be His Freedom Ambassadors, fighting to set people free from death and darkness by radiating Jesus’ light and love wherever He sets our feet in this country and to the nations. May our thoughts, words, and actions reflect the realities of God’s Kingdom where there is no hatred, no division, no jealousy, no gossip, no self-promotion, no sickness, and no lack. In their place may we sow seeds of unity, grace, peace, mercy and blessing! And may we have compassion for the captives as we lay down our lives for their freedom in Christ!

Others’ freedom will cost us something. Are we brave enough to fight for them?

Abundantly More

Abundantly More

Ephesians 3:20 tells us that God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly [infinitely] more than we can ask or imagine by His power working in us. The Message translation says, “far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Verse 21 explains that this truth exists so that God will be glorified throughout all generations.

What is the seemingly impossible thing that you would like to see God do that would give Him much glory? Cause you to love an “enemy?” Restore a decade-long relationship? Unify our nation? Heal a sick child? Move a mountain?

There is a story of a woman who won the lottery. When asked what she would do with her millions, she said she would buy a “double-wide” (mobile home). She could have afforded a mansion, but because she couldn’t comprehend the vastness of her wealth, she only dreamed of a small upgrade to her current circumstances. Are we content to pray “double-wide” prayers? Have we stopped dreaming big dreams because they seem far too impossible, and because dreaming big dreams would mean risking disappointment? Have we robbed God of His glory by the smallness of our faith?

What is our part in ensuring that God is glorified?

First, we need to dream with God. He created the universe. He is a creator, and we are made in His image. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” God’s desires become our desires—and His desire is to see His Kingdom come! So as we bring our big dreams before God’s heart, He molds and shapes those dreams in ways that will build His eternal Kingdom and glory. His Kingdom has no end, so our dreams should have no limits! While God is interested in both the small details of our lives as well as the big dreams, it’s red-sea sized testimonies that show the watching world that God is who He says He is.

Second, we need to trust God that His promises are real and true (2 Corinthians 1:20). His Word reminds us that all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27). And Jesus said that He will do whatever we ask in His name so that the Father will be glorified. Because “No word of God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:37) May He cause our faith to rise up to His level of promise so that we believe Him for the fulfillment of the big dreams that He puts in our hearts.

And third, we must come to recognize that it is His power in us that accomplishes His magnificent answers. That means it’s our job to access all the dunamis power that is ours when we are in Christ (Ephesians 1:19-20). So how do we move mountains? One key is in Matthew 17:20; we speak to the mountain with faith. And we pray big, bold prayers with confidence according to His will, asking that He not limit the size of His response by the size of our ask.

“May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) May we hope in nothing less than the power of Almighty God who desires to bless us and glorify the fame of His Name! Let’s unleash opportunities for God to be glorified by asking in faith for the realization of of all that He wishes to accomplish in big and mighty ways!