Saturday, June 1, 2013

How Do I Redefine Myself?

In the fourth part of his series "Uprising" which is based on his book, Erwin McManus reminds us that we are going after a great quest; the quest to live a life of courage.  Inside all of us is a hero.  There are decisions  we have to make on a daily basis.  We have to take deliberate steps which directly affect the outcome of our life.  These steps either lead away or towards a life of courage.  We were created to live an amazing life.  If you have ever felt that tension where your dreams were greater than your current life, it's because you have been trapped by fear to pursue it!

In the previous message of the series "Uprising", Erwin described  how courage stems from integrity, but integrity is usually what we want as a byproduct of our character, our  dreams and our ambition.  We don't consider integrity as a pursuit.  What was also discussed is that integrity stems from humility.  We wake up many days determined to be courageous, but rarely do we feel the same about pursuing humility.  "Courage is the dessert, but humility is the vegetable".   Even as we learn these truths, there is a tendency to think, "Okay, I can be humble long enough to develop integrity and I can have integrity long enough to get courage... Just tell me how long."  In other words, we tend to think in phases; Phase 1- Be Humble,  Phase 2 - Have Integrity and Phase 3 - Get Courage.  Here's the bad news; this is not a process that has a domino affect.  One does not follow the other.  It works more like a funnel.  The longer you live with humility, the longer you will have integrity.  The longer you live with integrity, longer you will have courage.  We never graduate, though.  However, it is helpful to know that the more humility you have, the more integrity you will have and the more integrity you have, the more courage you will have.

"I have known fear throughout my life... Fear is a cool mistress... I spent so much of my life watching so many other people live the life I wanted to live.  It played itself out in so many ways;  Fear to love, fear to trust, fear of being rejected, fear of being wounded and fear of not being liked."  Erwin feared pursuing ambitions, longings and desires because he feared there would be a lack of intelligence, skill and drive!  Fear led to fear!  But why have dreams if you don't have the courage to pursue them?  Why have hope when we are paralyzed and captive?  Have you ever noticed how much language of "courage" exists in scripture?  God seems to choose people who naturally have it.  But what you find upon a closer look is a need for ongoing courage.  People, past and present, are bound and trapped by their fears.  

In Joshua 1, we read, "After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. 

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”

12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!
Erwin observes, "I think the dominant conversation God is having with Joshua is about fear.  It wasn't really about courage, but rather it was about fear.  Joshua was defined by fear and doubt.  Joshua declared that Moses was dead.  He knew that the hero of the Israelites was no longer.  The man who freed a generation and who had led with the courage from God was now a memory.  Now Joshua was going to have to lead the people into battle and he would have to do it alone, with God.  "I love the way Joshua describes himself... he was Moses' aid"   How do you describe yourself?  Who do you have the courage to become?  This was Joshua's question.  He knew who Moses was and what Moses had done, but he didn't know who he was to become.  This opening chapter of Joshua starts with the aid of Moses, but it ends with the champion of Israel and the conqueror of the Promised Land.

"Last night, I went to get some exercise at the 24-Hour Fitness across town because the 24-Hour Fitness where I live isn't open 24 hours a day.  Go figure that out."  When Erwin arrived at the gym, he jumped on the elliptical machine and began exercising vigorously, but girl next to him was blowing him away.  She was faster and in much better shape.  Then the woman recognized Erwin from his church, he replied with a shrug,  "Yeah, I was just warming up."  Erwin jokes as he reflects, "Humility; (the gym) is where it all starts!"  After exercising, Erwin got home at around 10 pm and realized that he had left his phone on one of the machines.  "I have this Hansel and Gretel syndrome where I leave electronic equipment all over town to find my way around."  Erwin found himself driving back across town (West Hollywood).  "I realized (as he was driving through neighborhoods) so many people have lost themselves by being defined by others...  I felt overwhelmed..."  The single greatest act of courage we can accomplished is to redefined ourselves!  Our past, our fears and our doubts constantly hold us back.  Don't allow ourselves to be defined by the LEAST of us; but to allow ourselves to be redefined by who God designed us to be!   Do you have the courage to redefine yourself?

God had already redefined Joshua.  God would be to Joshua the SAME as He was to Moses.  Joshua was still living by his own definition of himself of the past.  Joshua sheepishly asked the Israelites to keep the commitments they had made to Moses.  But God and the people said, "No, we will keep our commitments to you."  First, they asked him to keep his commitment to God, though.  All they wanted from him was that he be strong and courageous.  God kept saying to Moses, over and over again, to have the courage to be who He wanted Moses to be.  If the people could see strength and courage in Joshua, it will be proof to them that he was connected to the heart of God.  See, when we connect our hearts to God, we become Bravehearts!  For every single person who God worked through in scripture, they had to embrace a definition of themselves assigned by God, which was always a definition greater than the one they had of themselves.

"The reason we are so afraid of monsters in the closets and (monsters in ) the dark is because there really are monsters the in closets telling us that we are less and that we are our worst moments, our deepest wounds."  Some of us are defined by our greatest pain, our greatest fear or our greatest doubts.  So, we live in fear and we only long for a future we wish we had.

In Joshua 2, Rahab, who was not held in high esteem, became a hero of the Israelites.  She was a prostitute who was considered righteous when she gave lodging to Joshua's spies!  Joshua had come to the great city of Jericho and he had sent in his spies.  Rahab understood that these spies were God's people and she realized she was forming history in His will.  Although she had made horrible decisions in the past, she now decided to join the mission and intention of God.  God performed a major act in history and used Rahab, the prostitute to do it!  She allowed God to redefine her.  "I love that there are 4 women identified in the lineage of Jesus and I love that Rahab is one of the 4!  The story of Jesus the Savior has the blood of a prostitute!"  Rahab was given a moment to put aside who she was in the past.  She decided she was not the sum total of her choices.

Look at the stories of the Bible.  It is proof.  Esther was a slave in a harem, but when she embraced the voice of the people, she became a queen.  Moses was a murderer, but one day he rose up and chose not to be a dismal failure.  Over and over again we see the pattern.  Daniel was a slave who became the sage of an empire.  Peter was the fisherman who became the rock of the world's church.  People even defined Jesus by His past!  He was the son of a carpenter and yet He was rightfully the son of God.  Today, erase all the definitions of who you are that make you less of who you truly are.  The question of the day is, "Who do you have the courage to become?"

Last week, Erwin was in Florida speaking and stopped to see his mom with whom he has what he describes as an "ambivalent relationship".  His mother rarely shares with him her past because of poor decisions and poor relationships.  What he does know about her is that she was 19 when she had Alex, Erwin's brother and she soon after became pregnant with Erwin.  At one point, her husband, who had been drinking, threw her down some stairs and she broke her leg.  She went to her parents for help and they took her in.  She worked at a hotel, her marriage was falling apart and somehow an opportunity opened up for her.  A Pan Am executive who rented a room for the night took to his mother and offered her a position at the airlines.  However, in order to take the job at Pan Am, an new hire had to have roughly $250 to pay for a uniform and that was a lot of money back then, especially to his mother.  Her family didn't have the money, but she was determined to get it and she did some things that Erwin is reserving for another message.  Nonetheless, his mother ended up getting a job as a stewardess.  Her refusal to wallow in her current circumstances and to remain defined by everyone around her gave her the courage to go to New York and to Miami.  Because of her courage, she traveled the globe although she almost allowed her past to convince her she would never be anything.  She allowed herself to shine.

When you surrender your life to Jesus, you become someone else.  If you've spent your whole life listening to the voices of others, you will remain outside of your dreams.  Erwin once heard a billionaire say, "People never change."  That is only half true!  People do change!  They can change through Jesus Christ.  Baptism is a form of choosing to be someone else through Christ.  It's the choice to come clean, to believe in Him and to refine ourselves according to God.  "I am defined by Jesus".  Live a courageous life!