Overshadowed

Identity is one of the greatest issues in the world today. We all want to be our own person. Find ourselves. Discover who we really are. We want to identify as someone or something and identify with someone or something. We have made it life’s number one goal—right or wrong. And in all of our searching and identifying, we have completely lost our identity.

We know that Satan is incapable of creating anything. All he can do is take the good that God has made and pervert it until it no longer resembles what it was truly meant to be. Our identity is one of these things. If the devil can make us forget (or never even know) who we really are, he’s won.

A long time ago, a young girl made the choice to give up her own personal identity in order to take one on that would have everlasting repercussions.

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

Luke 1:36 (NASB)

Most people today would balk at losing their identity. What did Mary do?

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38 (NASB)

Mary submitted her own will, her own identity, in order to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

We often wonder why people no longer flock to churches and why religion as a whole is no longer popular in society. Could it be that we’ve lost our true identity? In search of ourselves, we’ve stepped out of the shadow of the Holy Spirit. We have made ourselves more important than our Creator. The world no longer sees Christ, they see us as individuals rather than the body we are called to be.

If we really want to make a difference in the world, we have to set ourselves and our own desires aside. Mary didn’t even hesitate to accept the angel Gabriel’s words. She would have known that, as an unmarried woman, she would be ostracised by her community and even mocked for her supposed infidelity. Standing in the face of great opposition, she still chose to stand in the shadow of the Almighty. Her acquiescence changed the world.

As Christians, our lives are not about our own personal identity. We don’t need to go searching for purpose or acceptance. Our identity is found wholly in Christ. He accepts us. He gives us purpose. It is not up to us to shine our own lights, but rather to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit so that Jesus can shine.

Read: Deuteronomy 33-34, Luke 1:24-56

Terms and conditions

Read: Leviticus 1-3, Matthew 24:23-51

If you’re reading along in your Bible, you will have started Leviticus today. It’s a slog. Unless you’re really into the macabre, there isn’t much exciting about the first three chapters of the book. There’s a lot of killing of animals and gore. And some baking at the end. Don’t forget the salt.

We, having been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, have no need to make animal sacrifices in order to atone for our transgressions. So what is there for us in a book like Leviticus?

Let me explain.

Say you have an item of great value for sale. You’ve done your research and have had it appraised. You set a fair price and the item goes on the market. Someone approaches you and offers you an insulting price. They want to pay you half of what it’s worth. You immediately decline. But this person argues. They really, really need the item you have. You’re not convinced. The person making the offer becomes upset. Who are you to tell them what they can and cannot pay for an item they require? It’s not fair! It’s unjust! You shake your head. It’s your item, after all, and you have every right to decide it’s price based on fair market value. Heck, you can even decide to charge double fair market value if you want. It’s yours! The buyer continues to argue and you try to walk away. They chase after you trying one argument after another. The more they argue, the firmer you are in your decision not to sell to this person even if they ever decided to pay the price you set.

It all sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? When you’ve set the price on something you own, you are under no obligation whatsoever to accept anything but that price.

So why would we ever think that God should be required to accept anything less than what He’s required for the payment of our sin?

The book of Leviticus is God’s terms and conditions. They apply. Since He is the one who offers forgiveness, He is the one who gets to set the price. For those under the old covenant, some very specific sacrifices had to be offered in very specific ways. For those of us under the new covenant, it’s Jesus and Jesus alone who can (and already has) made the sacrifice for us.

John 14:6

There is only one term: Jesus. One condition: our acceptance of him. Anything else would be like the buyer offering half value. Since God is the one in possession of what we need, He is completely within His right to set the price and, if we truly want what He has to offer, we must accept His terms and conditions.

Be brave

Read: Genesis 23-24, Matthew 8

How many times in your life have you packed up and walked away from everything to start something completely new without knowing all of the details? Probably never. The vast majority of us will never really step too far out of our comfort zone. We do what we know and avoid what we don’t. But what if we’re missing out?

God made a big promise to Abraham. He knew and trusted that God would make it come to pass. His wife, though well beyond her child-bearing years, gave birth to a son. Through that son, God promised that Abraham would become the father of many nations. Now, that son needed a wife in order to fulfill this promise.

After swearing an oath to his master, Abraham’s servant went in search of a wife for Isaac. He had very specific instructions and probably doubted the point in making the trip altogether. But his master trusted the Lord, so he would also trust the Lord. All that trust paid off and the servant found the girl he was looking for on the first try. He proposed by proxy and the girl accepted.

So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

“I will go,” she said.

Genesis 24:58 (NIV)

Many may think that only the truly desperate would accept such an offer. The servant made it known that the family she’d marry into was very wealthy. But Rebekah’s family was wealthy in their own right. She was also a very beautiful woman, so it’s not like she wouldn’t have had suitors. Instead of staying at home and marrying the boy next door, Rebekah, in a matter of hours, made the choice to leave behind all that she knew and tie herself to the unknown. Aside from the lure of wealthy in-laws she had no way of knowing what her life would become.

It can be a scary place to be, this unknown. Rebekah seemed to take it in stride. But how prepared are we to go? When a man told Jesus he wanted to join up with him, but he had to bury his father first, Jesus told him to let the dead bury the dead (Matthew 8:22). There truly is no time like the present.

Had Rebekah remained where she was, I’m sure she would have found a nice man to marry. She could have stayed comfortable and wealthy among her own people. She could have had a good life. But, when she accepted the proposal from the servant, what she didn’t know was that she had also become part of a far greater promise.

I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:6-7 (NIV)

Rebekah, by trusting in the servant’s word, brought herself under the covenant God made with her father-in-law. She, through her husband Isaac, would become the mother of many nations, part of an everlasting covenant.

Most of us want to know the end before we even begin. We need all the details so we can make a list and weigh the pros and cons. That’s not how this works. God asks that we trust Him. And if we truly trust Him, we don’t need to know the end because He is the end.

Revelation 22:13

When we refuse to move before we have all the information, we rob ourselves of the blessing God has in store for us. Like Rebekah, we need to be brave, take the first step, and trust that our God knows what He’s doing.

Worthy

Do you ever have a hard time receiving a gift when you know you don’t deserve it? You try to give it back, but the person giving it to you insists that you take it.

Our lives in Christ are full of gifts that we are not worthy of. From beginning to end, God grants us gifts that we have no business receiving. Yet, in addition to giving us these gifts, He also makes us worthy of them.

And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. And we pray that God, by his power, will fulfill all your good intentions and faithful deeds.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NLT)

When God calls us to a life beyond our means, He holds no expectations that we work ourselves to the bone to become worthy of that life. He’s given us the gift and He is the only one who can make us good enough to receive it. That’s the point.

Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:12 (NLT)

Because we are undeserving and because we are unable to live up to the life God has called us to in our own strength, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us to accomplish what God has called us to do. In this way, not only do we increase the Kingdom of God, but we bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus. When the world sees us do what we cannot do, they will have no choice but to recognise the power of God.

So go ahead, accept that gift. And in accepting the gift of the call of God on your life, accept the fact that He has made you worthy to receive it and He will give you all that you need to do it. And, most importantly, after all of this happens, be sure to give the glory to the only One who is worthy of it.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 65-66, 2 Thessalonians 1

The gift that keeps on giving

It is a simple thing to accept a gift. And it can be just as simple a thing to set that gift aside and forget about it. If you receive something that you may not use right away or don’t need at the time, but may have use for it later, you can put it away and forget you ever received it.

But you must continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.

Colossians 1:23a (NLT)

Paul understood that certain gifts can easily be forgotten. This is why he was so adamant that the church at Colosse continue to believe the truth and stand in the assurance they received when they first heard the Good News.

Accepting salvation through Christ is the easy part—keeping that salvation before us and remaining confident in it is where it may get difficult. Like a gift that is received and even welcome, yet set aside for later occasion, our salvation too, can be cast aside. And the longer it remains to the side and out of our direct line of sight, the less aware we become of it. It becomes the forgotten gift, collecting dust, unused.

For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.

Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

Salvation is not a gift that is meant to be readily accepted and then set aside to be forgotten about or only pulled out on special occasions. It is meant to be used all the time. And the more we make use of it, the more we will grow, gain, and benefit from it. This gift of salvation is our assurance from God of even greater gifts to come. Like a kid excitedly waiting for his birthday party to start—with friends and presents on the way, we should be waiting in expectation of what is to come and grateful for what we’ve already received.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 41-42, Colossians 1

Your lot in life

There are people I refer to as Eeyore Christians. You know, always depressed, pessimistic, gloomy. Glass half empty kind of people. These are the sort of people who may say that they’ve just accepted their lot in life. And they believe themselves to be of great piety as they say it.

But, guess what? These people are sorely mistaken! Too many Christians have taken that one small phrase from a larger portion of scripture and have used it to justify the fact that they refuse to work harder or find any joy at all right where they are. Accepting your lot in life has absolutely nothing to do with settling for a sub-par existence.

And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 (NLT)

Have you ever heard someone say that they just had to accept their lot in life and say it with joy? I doubt it. It’s usually with that Eeyore drone as though they are meant to go through life alone, unhappy, sick, and poor.

But there is nothing in this portion of Ecclesiastes that would indicate all of those things are our lot in life. It points to the opposite.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work—whatever they do under the sun—for however long God lets them live. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NLT)

Is poverty a gift from God? No! Is pain a gift from God? No! Is sorrow a gift from God? No!

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

John 10:10 (NLT)

To accept your lot in life is to accept a life of fullness no matter where you find yourself. Life may not be what you thought or planned it would be, but that doesn’t mean that you have to slog through it accepting all the junk life may throw at you. To accept your lot in life means to trust that God still has a good plan for you. It means to look for the joy in the things you see and do every day. It means be thankful and grateful for today and all that comes with it. And, above all, it means enjoying life.

So go ahead, accept your lot.

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have.

Ecclesiastes 6:9a (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Ecclesiastes 4-6, 2 Corinthians 10

Opportunity knocks

OPPORTUNITY: Fit or convenient time; a time favorable for the purpose; suitable time combined with other favorable circumstances

Opportunity sounds like a good thing to me. Who wouldn’t want a time favourable for a purpose? Who wouldn’t want favourable circumstances?

Many people, though, through the misguidance of others or through their own ignorance aren’t even aware of the greatest opportunity that will ever be offered on this side of eternity.

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by crucifying him. Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this to give the people of Israel an opportunity to turn from their sins and turn to God so their sins would be forgiven.

Acts 5:30-31 (NLT)

Jesus died to give us an opportunity—a suitable time combined with favourable circumstances—to turn from our sins and turn to God so we can be forgiven. When is that opportune time? Right now. It is always right now.

For God says,

“At just the right time I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT)

Today is the day of salvation. Today. Right now. This moment. For one reason or another, there are a great many people who believe that they must wait to receive salvation. That they have to somehow make themselves better in order to be even offered the gift. Nothing could be further from the truth! The gift has already been offered. The opportunity given. The only thing that can prevent anyone from receiving the gift is themselves by not reaching out and accepting it.

Too many people have made salvation far more complicated than it really is.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9 (NLT)

Can it get any more simple than that? Stop waiting for the right time. The right time is now! Jesus is waiting for you with open arms in whatever state you’re in at this very moment. Go answer the door because opportunity is knocking.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Esther 4-6, Acts 5:17-42