It’s All About the Company You Keep

It has been said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. There is no doubt that those who occupy the majority of our time have a direct affect on who we are – good or bad. But the motive behind who you spend your time with can also have an impact on both yourself and others.

There is a deep desire among people today for authentic relationships. Many have befriended a person only to find that their new “friend” was only seeking a relationship for whatever they could get out of it. These types of “friends” are constantly asking themselves “what can she do for me?” The result of these superficial friendships is that many people today are suspect of anyone who desires their company and therefore keeps them at arm’s distance. When people seek a person’s company simply for their own personal gain or just to be able to tell others that they’ve spent time with a particular person, it is no doubt repelling and hurtful. This type of self-seeking friendship is rooted in the insecurities of those searching to find their identity based on who they are associated with. Their identity is found in what others perceive them to be, not who they really are. The outcome will only be temporary because if your identity is found in who you associate with, others may be drawn to you, but only as long as you have a connection to your identifier.

But when the one you spend time with and whom your identity is found in is Jesus Christ, people will easily identify you as such by the time you spend with Him. They will be drawn to God, through you. And those friends who seek your time when your identity is found in Christ are friends you can trust to be authentic and loyal because they are drawn to the goodness of God in you, not just you. They seek audience with you because they desire the qualities and characteristics you possess as a friend of God. Friends like these will not be asking “what can she do for me?” rather, “if He did all that for her, can He do it for me too?”.

So, who are you spending your time with? Through your friend choices, you are literally transforming your life. But most importantly, what image do you portray to those who spend time with you? Are they being transformed into your image or into the image of Christ who is in you? Examine who you are associating with the most. Is it the only One who can enable you toward who you were created to be? Or is it someone you think will increase your value in the eyes of others if you are associated with them? If it’s the latter, it is time to increase your contact with your Father in heaven who created you and knows you – not who others perceive you to be, but the real you. And seek to spend more time with other Godly friends who will enable you to become transformed into the image of Christ as you share authentic relationships together. After all, you are the company you keep. Who would others say you are? And who do you want to be?

Smoke and Mirrors

A friend of mine recently visited the Los Angeles area and decided to go on a tour of Hollywood. As the group approached the heart of Hollywood near the Walk of Fame the bus driver said “Whatever you expect Hollywood to be, go ahead and throw it out the window now. It will be nothing like you expect it to be.” As the driver warned, it was certainly not what she had imagined. The Walk of Fame was a full-blown letdown. She recognized very few of the names on the stars in the area where they were dropped off. When she asked where she could find some of the more well-known stars she was informed they were a few blocks down and were not in an area she would want to venture into as a tourist.

A visit to the famed Rodeo Drive resulted in further disappointment. The high-end designer stores were old, plain storefronts lacking in glitz or glamour. And what appears on TV as an endless array of upscale shopping is merely a small area of uninviting stores. Her next stop was The Grove where many celebrities are spotted shopping or surveying the fresh fruits and vegetables at the local Farmer’s Market. This location proved to be much more desirable and she even saw filming taking place for the entertainment show “Extra”. However, from the celebrities she saw that day to the tour of Hollywood, everything was smoke and mirrors. Nothing that she saw in person, including the celebrities, looked anything like they appear on TV.

As women we often hide behind the same smoke and mirrors. By all appearances everything is fine. People see us and we smile and put up a front that everything in our lives is going according to plan. We seemingly have it all together. But when the smoke and mirrors is gone and the mask we wear is removed, many times what is behind it all is a woman who has been robbed of her identity. She questions who she really is. Her identity has been found for so long in her children, her spouse, her position or her title that she’s forgotten who she really is. Women today are defined by images and portrayals in the media that do not line up with the image in which we were created by God. Among many of us today, there is an insatiable desire for beauty and a longing to “fit in” to a world we were never meant to fit into in the first place.

We place false expectations on ourselves that we must take on many roles (wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, worker, volunteer, student, leader, caretaker) and there is no room for mistakes or weakness. We are drowning in our attempt to be everything to everybody by taking on these many roles, many of which were not intended for us. And in some cases, women spend their entire lives trying to prove their worth and value based on a definition of who they should be and not on the biblical definition of who they were created to be. And in a futile attempt to cover up what society defines as weakness, we pretend that we are effectively doing it all and being it all without any negative consequences.

The identity crisis among women lies not in our inability to do all and be all. It lies in our inability to believe in the truth of God’s word. We have allowed ourselves to believe in the altered images we see and the false words spoken to us. Our own insecurities have kept us from the power and joy that comes from walking in the unity of authentic relationships with our sisters in Christ. God’s word says that those who believe in Jesus Christ are the righteousness of God in Christ. Jesus became sin for you so that you might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21). And that you are a child of Abraham by faith and therefore an heir according to the promises God made to Abraham. (Gal. 3:27, 29). You are blessed, chosen, predestined and adopted as one of His own and accepted in the beloved. And in Him you have redemption through His blood and forgiveness of your sins. (Eph. 1:3-7).  You are holy, chosen and a special treasure for the Lord. (Deut. 14:2).

Which definition will you choose to believe? The one masked in smoke and mirrors that isn’t what it seems to be or the one that says you are a treasured possession chosen by your Father in heaven? If your identity is in your role or title or how someone else defines you, you will always question your value and your worth. But when you know who you are in Christ you will know the peace that comes with knowing your true identity. You will know that you are valued and will find unspeakable joy in knowing that you are a treasured possession in the eyes of God. You are not who this world says you are or who someone else says you are. You are who God says you are. Isn’t it time you started believing it?

Destiny Fulfilled

It’s the most basic question people face in life and the reason Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for one of the longest periods in history.  Why am I here? What is my purpose?  Many people spend their entire life chasing after what they believe is their destiny, their purpose. They search for that thing that will bring them a sense of fulfillment. And many end up at the end of their lives looking back with much regret as they think they missed out on the one great job, the one exciting adventure, the once in a life time relationship or the one esteemed calling that would have made their life complete.

Still others believe that they found fulfillment during their lifetime. They do the great things and even the small things that bring them the happiness and satisfaction of a life that did in fact have a purpose. Whether it’s a mother who raised well-rounded, successful children or the doctor whose research led to the cure for a disease, many reach the end of their lives with a sense of accomplishment and achievement.

But while many of them may have fulfilled a great purpose in their life, they may be completely unaware that they may have missed the purpose for which they were created. If asked, they would tell you that they had reached their destiny and accomplished their personal goals for their life. But I am not talking about the destiny measured by the standards of this world. I am talking about the destiny for which they were created. The destiny measured by eternal standards.

The recent death of Whitney Houston has once again revealed that no matter how much money, fame, power or success you achieve, we all deal with the same insecurities, addictions, demons, unhealed hurts and deception, especially us women. But aside from the differences in our lives that are visible on the surface, when it comes to who we are at the very depth of our soul, we are all on a level playing field. Whitney Houston’s tragic death is proof and begs the question “how can someone who seemingly has it all still appear to be so incredibly unhappy?”. The answer is really quite simple. We will never experience complete peace and joy by fulfilling any destiny other than our God-given destiny.

When we allow our identity to be determined by what the world defines as successful, powerful, important and worthy then we will take on a false identity and our purpose in life will never be completely fulfilling. But when our identity is in Christ and we know by Who and for what we were created, then we can truly reach our full potential. We were created to glorify God through our love for Him and our love for others. Created in the very image of God, our creator, we will never find satisfaction in anything other than the fulfillment of that purpose. When we respond to the message of the gospel and Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior, our lives are “conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29). It is in this transformation that we are able to glorify God through the way we live our lives. And when we live a Christ-like existance, others will take notice and will be drawn to His goodness, mercy and love. And until you discover that God-given purpose for your own life you, will never fulfill your true destiny.

Each of has a unique set of giftings, talents and skills that drive us to choose the path which our life follows. Sometimes, not by our own choice, our paths take unexpected turns. But we each have different things that will occupy our time here on earth such as a career, family, goals and achievements. It is through these contributions that our lives are intended to glorify our Father and draw those within our circle of influence to Him. Are you spinning your wheels chasing after dreams and a purpose you chose or someone chose for you that only leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled? Have you reached a point where you look back on your life and while you should be feeling  fulfillment and satisfaction with all you’ve accomplished, you still feel like something is missing? The reason may be that you are pursuing a purpose but not the God-given purpose you were placed upon this earth for. It’s not too late to realize your true destiny and to begin to chase after the goal which God set before you when He formed you. Your life was meant to glorify the One who created you. And if your purposes are anything less than that, you will never fully experience the internal joy that comes from a destiny fulfilled.

Delayed Destiny

How many times have you asked a child “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I wonder how many times I was asked that question growing up. Are you doing now what you dreamed of doing as a child or as a teenager? I began thinking about this recently and wondered just how many young people have God-sized dreams of being something when they grow up and how many of them ever have the chance to see that dream fulfilled. And I wondered just how many people like me, believe God placed a dream in their heart as a young person that is still yet to come to pass. I believed that dream would never be fulfilled but then through a series of life events I found myself walking in, albeit delayed, the destiny that God placed in my heart 32 years ago.

I was in 7th grade and I distinctly remember our new English teacher handing me back an assignment. She looked me in the eye and said “you’re going to be a writer some day”. I remember exactly how I felt in that moment as an insecure and self-concious 13 year old. I believed her. I wanted so badly to be a writer and in that moment I believed I could be. In the spring of that same year the 7th and 8th grade classes spent a week at a nearby natural, lakeside retreat where we held our classes outdoors and enjoyed the many activities that were available all while spending the week in rustic cabins. The girls were in one cabin and the boys in another. That very same teacher who had told me in the fall that I would be a writer some day boldly shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with some of the girls one night in our cabin. I was one of those girls and that night I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. But the teacher who had such an impact on my life that year did not return the following year to teach at my school. After just one year she left and I quickly forgot about her. I began to make wrong choices and I headed down a path that would lead me away from the commitment I had made to follow Jesus. In my 8th grade year while at the same retreat, I made a decision that was in total opposition to the one I had made when I had asked Jesus into my heart just one year earlier. And it was a wrong choice that would mark a turning point in my faith. Following my 8th grade year, I spent the next 15 years running and hiding from the God I had professed to believe in.

Over the years there were glimpses of the dream of writing. I majored in English in college with the idea in the back of my mind that it would some day lead me into that dream. But my lack of commitment once again brought about missed opportunity and I dropped out of college to join the US Navy. Several years later I once again approached the dream and submitted a writing to a magazine on a whim. I thought that would be my chance to keep the dream alive but the rejection of my story made me once again give up and lose any bit of hope I had left. But God, who is ever faithful had never given up hope that I would some day turn away from my sins and turn back to Him. And when I reached that point when I knew I couldn’t take it any more and I had no where else to turn, I cried out to God for help. And He answered. I recommited my life to Jesus and made the choice that I would offer my heart completely to God and follow Him for the rest of my life.

Since that time 15 more years have passed. I gave birth to another son, worked in corporate America for many years, was a homemaker for a time period and have worked at my church. But 8 months ago God awakened that dream again to be a writer. The dream I thought was long over was starting to stir in me again and over the next few months things began to happen and doors began to open for me to be able to see that the dream was not dead, it was simply delayed. I began to write. And shortly after I did I began to think of that teacher who had told me she believed in my abilities as a writer and more importantly had shared the gospel with me. I felt like God was nudging me to look her up, contact her and tell her thank you. I went to my basement and started going through my yearbooks to see if I could find her because I couldn’t remember her name. When I opened up my 7th grade yearbook to the faculty page I found something I’d never seen before. The teacher I was looking for had signed my yearbook and she wrote “I really believe in you and think you have a genuine ability as a writer. Don’t cheat yourself of that talent.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Almost 32 years after God had placed the dream to be a writer in my heart, I was finally walking in the destiny. I sat in my basement and cried at the goodness of God. I thanked Him that He never quit pursuing me and that He was showing me in that moment that no matter how many bad decisions I made, that it’s never too late to walk in your destiny. I created a website and continued writing but I was still reluctant to make it public. I made excuses and reasoned why it wasn’t time yet to do so. The truth was I was afraid of what people would think and I still dealt with the same old insecurities. But on New Years Day I heard God say “no more excuses” so that day I posted it on social media sites. The response was immediate. I received so much positive encouragement from my friends. I wondered why I had not done it sooner. But I knew the reason. We have a very real enemy who will do whatever it takes to keep us from walking in the destiny God has called us to. And if he can’t stop us, he’ll stall us for as long as he can in order to delay our destiny.

You may look back and see exactly where you made a wrong turn or where the enemy tried to derail you. But it’s not too late. And you don’t know who may have been praying for you for years to know God and to walk in your destiny. I found out when my son was 16 that the lady who babysat him when he was just a newborn baby used to pray for him regularly. Her daughter was going through some of her things after she passed away and found a picture of him when he was only 3 months old with a bible and her hand on his chest as she prayed over him. It’s God’s plan for you to walk fully into the destiny He has for you. He places people in your life to pray over you and to encourage you. Don’t ever believe that the promise of a dream that God placed in your heart, whether it was last week, last month or 32 years ago, is dead. It may only be delayed. So, get back on track and back to believing in the destiny on your life. Cry out to God to awaken the dream and to reveal the obstacles within you that are preventing you from reaching that dream. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you the dream is dead. If God placed it there, it’s very much alive. And in His perfect timing you will see how God’s hand was upon your destiny all along and what seemed dead was only delayed.