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Monday, September 15, 2014

I Am Labeled

Luke 19
Jesus and Zacchaeus
(Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Labels. We are obsessed with them. Life makes more sense when everything and everyone is placed into an easy-to-define category. Because of that, we tend to believe that one’s label is also their identity. In the story, Zacchaeus is called a chief tax collector, rich, small, a sinner, saved, and a son of Abraham. Whew!! See…the problem is that there are so many labels being thrown around that it becomes easy to lose track of who we are. Parents and teachers try to tell you who you should be. Friends try to tell you who they want you to be. Peers and social media try to tell you who they think you are………but who do you think you are? And is who you are different from who you want to be?

Who are you?

Do you see yourself as you believe others see you – or perhaps tell you? These tend to be the labels we fixate on the most, aren’t they? Probably because these are the labels that either hit on our insecurities or we feel are not accurate. These are the labels that are judging us by our outside covers. I feel that to the world, I am sarcastic. I am funny. I am outgoing. I am mean. I am angry. I am self-centered.

Whether or not that’s how people actually see me is irrelevant. It’s how I believe they see me…and I don’t like it. I feel these labels are not true. I feel that I am more than that. The question is – do I allow these labels to define me? To identify me? I think many of us do.

Who are you?

Are you the labeler? Watch this familiar scene. See if you notice what’s going on.

I know the focus of this movie is on the mean girls. That’s the title of the movie. Naturally, they’re the bad guys, right? But in this scene, where were the labels coming from? Not the mean girls. They were coming from the good guys in the story. Even the mean girls had a label. It happened in our story of Zacchaeus too. The Jews were the victims of Zacchaeus’s crookedness. While collecting taxes for the Romans, Zacchaeus would tell the Jews that the taxes were higher than they actually were—then keep the difference. So when Jesus said that He was going to eat dinner with Zacchaeus, the people were stunned. “This guy?! But he’s a sinner!! He’s a thief!! A traitor!!” The victims were judging Zacchaeus by his outward appearance, not the change he had made internally. We’re all guilty of this, and to say otherwise is a lie. In junior high and high school, I loathed the preps and the jocks. Notice the labels? I felt that they looked down on the rest of us, judging us in their superior way…yet I was no different. I didn’t know them – and there I was, judging their outward appearance.

Isn’t it ironic how much we hate being labeled by others, yet are so quick to do it ourselves? Perhaps if we spent less time trying to place identities on others, we would have a better understanding of who we are.

Who are you?

How do you see yourself? When I look in the mirror, I see a husband. A son. A brother. Uncle. Friend. I am loyal. I am humble. Shy. Busy. Intelligent. Overweight. Lonely. Caring. Loving. Insecure.  Is this who I am? Is this my identity or am I also merely judging my autobiography from its cover? What is my true identity? Who am I?

Who are you?

This obsession we have with our identity is not only unhealthy, it’s unnecessary. We waste so much time trying to figure out who we are, when we’re told in the Bible who we are. We worship the labels, not the God who has given us our true identity.

Who are you?

You are not the logo on your shirt. You are not the car in the garage. You are not your possessions. You are not your lunchroom clique. You are not your job title. You are not your race. You are not your gender. You are not your sexual preference. You are not your country. You are not your favorite celebrity. You are not your parents. You are not your siblings. You are not a political party. You are not your disease or disorder. You are not your school’s mascot. You are not your hair color. You are not your favorite band.

These things may explain you, but they don’t define you. I want you to hear that. Your sufferings may explain you. Your income might explain you. Your health, your beauty, your age, your relationship status, your IQ, your GPA, your extra-curriculars, your car, the clothes you wear—those things might explain you, but they don’t define you. They don’t define youMark Driscoll.

God defines you.

Who does God say you are? You are His child (John 1:12)…You are His friend (John 15:15)…You are accepted (Romans 15:7)…You are set free (Galatians 5:1)…You are blessed (Ephesians 1:3)…You are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)…You are a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3:20)…You are loved and chosen (1 Thessalonians 1:4).

These labels are given, not earned. God gives them to you. There is no class or social order. I am no more and no less valuable than you. You are no more and no less valuable than the person next to you. You cannot work harder to receive these labels. You cannot pray harder to receive them. You cannot be perfect. God loves you. He has chosen…you. All you have to do, is accept that.

Before Zacchaeus met Jesus, he struggled with his identity. He was a crooked man internally, and that was reflected through his outward actions. Consequently, the world saw him as a crook. When he met Jesus, he immediately changed on the inside. His identity became clear. This change was reflected in his outward actions as he gave back to those he had stolen from more than he took from them.

We place labels on things and on people. Labels are external. Identity is who you are. It’s internal. Like Zacchaeus, without Jesus, we struggle to know who we are. We allow our labels to define us. To become our identity. When we meet and accept Jesus, however, our one true identity becomes clear. That clarity allows us to address our labels through our outward actions.

I’m a sarcastic person, but recently, I realized that I had become so sarcastic, that I was starting to come across as grumpy, unfriendly, and mean…so I decided to make a change. I’m not those things on the inside, but my outward actions were not showing that. This year, I am outwardly trying to better display my heart. I’m still a sarcastic person, but instead of allowing that label to define me, I am attempting to show my true identity through Christ.

What is that one identity given to me by God? Who am I? I am…Josh

Who are you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Am...

It’s difficult to decide whether growing pains are something teenagers have – or are – unknown.


Like that? How about this one:

Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years – unknown.


Or this:

The teenager seems to have replaced the Communist as the appropriate target for public controversy and foreboding – Edgar Friedenberg, The Vanishing Adolescent.


It’s easy and common for adults to simultaneously make fun of and fear teenagers. Why not? One minute they’re giggling uncontrollably for no reason at all…the next, they’re sobbing uncontrollably for no reason at all. Psychologically, teenagers carry nearly the exact same characteristics of someone suffering from bi-polarism. With that in mind, perhaps it’s time we begin looking at teenagers like this:


Don’t laugh at a youth for his affections; he is only trying on one face after another to find a face of his own – Logan Pearsall Smith, “Age and Death,” Afterthoughts.


Or even this:

Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves – Virginia Satir, The New Peoplemaking.


In our society, we obsess over labels and identity. Jesus never had that problem. In John 8, when the Jews asked Him who He was, Jesus responded, “I am.” Jesus knows precisely who He is; consequently, we know precisely who He is.


But who am I? Where do I fit into this chaos called life? These are questions adults ask themselves from time-to-time, but they are also questions that teenagers are asking for the first time.


In classic psychology, there are eight stages of life. As one exits a stage and enters another, a kind of life-crisis happens. It’s like in weather – when a new front passes through, a storm occurs. Well, pre-teen and early teenagers are at the beginning of the stage known as adolescence, so right now, that life-crisis…that storm…is taking place. They are looking for their identity in this world. A direction into adulthood.


Our children grow up looking up to us. Our truths are their truths. What they see in us is what they believe the world to be. We are infallible. Then these children become adolescents, and their eyes begin to open. They see the world beyond the walls of their home. They see our faults and failures. We may try to hide them or explain them away as something to be understood when these teens are older, but the fact of the matter is that our teens are trying to make sense of it now. They’re confused because what they’re witnessing goes against everything they’ve known their whole life. They’re searching for truth. They’re searching for understanding. They’re searching for identity. Meanwhile…they’re watching.


Teenagers are some of the most observant humans on the planet. Sure, they’ll forget to do their chores or space out when we’re talking, but they’re watching us. Where do we fit in? How do we handle the truths of the world that they are now awakening to? Teenagers don’t want to do their homework, but they are craving to learn. We cannot continue to shield them from the world that’s awaiting them, but we can help ease the transition by humbling ourselves and opening up.


I am faulted. I am confused. Angry. Stressed. The thing is…I have a Savior who accepts these issues from me. Now, just because Jesus is in my life does not mean I don’t feel overwhelmed or frustrated. However, because Jesus is in my life, I know that I have Someone that I can take these issues to. Someone who gives me the strength and ability to persevere through the truths of this world. And because of that, I also know that I am blessed. Happy. Loved. These are the truths we will be speaking on this year at Wyldlife and I will be writing on here. The goal is to embrace this teenaged road of identity-seeking and provide the GPS coordinates to their next destination in order to help them better weather this storm.


Perhaps then, our adolescents can understand this:

How strange that the young should always think the world is against them – when in fact that is the only time it is for them – Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook.