Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Who are You, Lord? Who am I?

 Excerpt taken from Thad's first book, "Real Identity" (pg 69) 


     Dame Cicely Saunders died on July 14, 2005, at the age of eighty-seven. A remarkable woman who will long be remembered. What she did has hugely impacted our world for the better.
     What she did wasn’t who she was. That didn’t come first. She first belonged to Jesus Christ. In 1945 after the divorce of her parents, Cicely Saunders converted from agnosticism to Christianity. It was based on this faith in the Lord that she prayed to know how best to serve God. She believed He had a plan for her life, that He was in control of her days, and that He knew her intimately, as Psalm 139:15–16 says.
     Too often in life, we think the exact opposite. We are what we do. our identity is wrapped up in our achievements: what school we went to, what degrees we’ve earned, what jobs we’ve held, places we’ve traveled, people we’ve known, power we’ve wielded, or possessions we’ve accrued.
     But we are not what we do. That’s a lie from the Devil himself.
     We are first people created by God for God. Our identity is first found in Him. Our value. Our worth. Our meaning. Our purpose in life comes second, always second. Because we can’t know what He’s called us to do until we first know He created us and called us to Himself, for Himself.
     We belong to Him.
     That’s where we find our worth. Not in what we do but in who we belong to.
     This was true for Cicely Saunders. What she did in life, writes David Clark her biographer, was “underpinned by a powerful religious commitment.”1 She wanted to serve the Lord. That was her prayer. And He answered, giving her a heart and passion for the dying. She trained as a nurse and social worker. Then, at the age of thirty-three, in a day when few women were doctors, she studied to be a doctor. So she could devote herself to the dying.
     That peculiar time in life when we can’t do for ourselves. When all we have is stripped away. And if our identity is wrapped up in what we do, we’re in big trouble because we can’t do. Not then. Not when we’re dying.
     But if our identity is wrapped up in Who we belong to, if our worth is found in the one who created us and called us to Himself, then everything changes.
     Everything! Because we matter to Him. And in Him we have worth.
     Dr. Cicely Saunders dreamed the impossible dream. She wanted the dying to know the kindness and mercy of God. So she became the founder of a “worldwide movement to provide compassionate care for the dying.” A movement called hospice. She said, “I didn’t set out to change the world; I set out to do something about pain.” Physical pain.
And heart pain. She’d tell her patients, “you matter because you are you, and you matter to the last moment of your life.”2
     You matter before God. Not just what you do. You matter because you are you.
     The world around us teaches us that purpose comes first. Find purpose, find identity. Just take the simple test. Ask somebody, “Who are you?” And more times than not they’ll tell you what they do. “I’m a school teacher . . . a lawyer . . . a salesman . . . a hockey-dad.” “I’m a mom . . . a wife . . . an accountant . . . a businesswoman.” I am what I do. In order to be somebody, I have to produce. And if I produce, I get to tell people that I’m somebody.
     It’s how the world spins. Find purpose, find identity.
     As I was growing up, I remember being told that men often die after they retire. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They get lost in life because all they know is what they do. And what they do is who they are. So the moment they stop doing what they do, they lose themselves.
     Big, big trouble. Being a Christian changes all that.
     When somebody asks us, “Who are you?” we know what to say, “I’m a Christian.” or, to say it another way, “I belong to Christ.” Because who we are is wrapped up completely in Who He is.
     We belong to Him. He made us. By God’s own hand, we were “skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.” He saw our “unformed substance.” In His book “were all written the days that were ordained” for us. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14–16).
     Our identity begins and ends with God. Whether we can or can’t do. Our value, our worth, our meaning, is found in our relationship with Him. Just as the good doctor, Cicely Saunders said.
     You matter before God. Not just what you do. You matter because you are you.
     That’s how the Christian walk starts. Identity comes first. The first questions are never, “What’s my purpose, Lord? What have you called me to do?” The first two questions are, “Who are you, Lord, and who am I?”


Questions for Reflection

When somebody asks you, “Who are you?” what do you say?

Is it possible that your identity is wrapped up deeply in what you do 
and what you’ve accomplished?

1.  Barbara Field, “science Hero: Dame Cicely Saunders,” The My Hero Project, last modified September 29, 2012, http://www.myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=Cicely_saunders_ 06.
2.  Ibid.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Access to the Father

Excerpt taken from Thad's first book, "Real Identity" (pg 303)

     “You have to read the book,” a pastor told me. Turns out he’s a personal friend of the author and it’s on every best-seller list in the country.
     I got the book and read it. It felt to me like a delightful infusion of a child’s faith pouring into my veins.
     This little four-year-old boy, during a life-threatening operation, caught a glimpse of heaven and slowly, over weeks and months, told his dad and mom about what he saw. His dad wrote the book. His dad’s a pastor of a church.
     “Daddy, what’s a funeral?” the boy, Colton, asked.
     “Well, buddy, a funeral happens when someone dies. A man here in town died, and his family is coming to the church to say good-bye to him.”
     “Did the man have Jesus in his heart?” the four year old asked.
     “I’m not sure, Colton,” his dad replied, “I didn’t know him very well.”
     With that, Colton got worried and insisted, “He had to have Jesus in his heart. He had to know Jesus or he can’t get into heaven!”
     The same scene repeated at the church. It was the first time Colton had ever seen a casket. When he learned the dead man was inside, the worry came back.
     “Did that man have Jesus?” Colton said, nearly shouting. “He had to! He had to!” The outburst caused his mom to snatch him up and take him outside. “He can’t get into heaven if he didn’t have Jesus in his heart,” he kept saying.1
     A little boy who’d spent a little time in heaven. With a simple message. One that grown-ups have a hard time hearing.
     At least that’s been my experience.
     A few weeks ago I was at a funeral. I could tell the pastor loved the dear woman who had died. She had spent years in the church. A gentle soul, a person overflowing with kindness. That, of all her gifts, was her legacy.
     The pastor’s message was heartwarming as he remembered story after story of this great woman’s life. He encouraged us to make godly choices and live godly lives as she had done. He wanted us to know how much God loved us. And that she was safe in heaven now. Cheering us all on.
     It was a gentle, sentimental message, touching the heart. I could hear people around me responding with quiet sobs. The pastor honored the remarkable character of this woman, but in doing so forgot the simple message.
     Colton’s message.
     Then came the eulogies. One of the woman’s sons rose to the microphone. So like his mother—gracious and kind. After a few minutes of remembrance, he told us the most comforting words possible for a grieving soul. His mother knew Jesus.
     “It may seem strange,” he told us, “and hard to understand. But having cancer might have been the best thing that ever happened to her. Not that God caused it, but that He used it for her good [see rom. 8:28]. It was this diagnosis, and the ominous ‘less than two years to live’ that moved her to turn to the Lord. We all saw her prayers answered because He changed her from being an active church-going woman to being a real and courageous follower of Jesus Christ. I am so proud of her.”
     There was comfort in his voice. Comfort that it was all true. What the pastor said. His mom was safe in heaven now. Because of Jesus Christ.
     And then he did what Colton did. With compassion and sincerity, gentleness and care, he invited the people to have the same personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To have Him in our hearts. Now and forever.
     Funny how we grown-ups avoid the subject. We get so afraid that people will think we’re pushing our religion on them. But Jesus said it so clearly, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). The message is almost too simple. The way to the Father, the way into heaven, only happens through His son.
Because He’s the only “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Because His blood is the only blood that has been presented to, and accepted by, our Father in heaven securing the forgiveness of our sins (see Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:11–28).
     Because His death tore in two the veil that separated us from God, thereby giving us “confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil” (Heb. 10:19–20).
     He is the way to the Father. The only way.
     It’s why the early Christians called themselves the people of the Way (see Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). It’s why their message was a simple one.
     A Colton message.
     No one else. No other name.
     So many people hate this about Christians. They say we’re “narrow-minded”; “intolerant” of other faiths and personal beliefs; “arrogant” to think we’re the only ones in the world who have the key to get into heaven. They find it hard to hear that a Champion has come. That He has done what no one else has ever done—or could do. He has opened the gates of eternity by His blood.
     And then sent a four year old to tell us the good news.

Questions for Reflection

Sometimes when the news is so bad, so frightening, what we need most is simple faith, a childlike faith, to see and believe in Jesus. Have you ever longed for that infusion of a child’s faith and received it?

In Ephesians 2:18, we are told the best news: We have access to the Father through Christ by the Holy spirit. 
Access is one of the most profound and beautiful words of the Bible.  It can be yours today in Jesus. Can you imagine it? 
Are you different because of it?

1Todd Burpo, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville: Thomas nelson, 2010), 57–59.

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?