Sunday, July 30, 2017

Intro: Whats On Your Name Tag?

Matthew opens the book by describing his love for running (WHY??? lol) and he quickly explains that the body (at least his) was not made for running, bad for the joints you see, and when its too hot, (wouldn't want to chafe) no running, or too cold, nu-uh, nope, no running, wouldn't want to catch a cold....he then decides maybe he is NOT a lover of running AFTER ALL. Perhaps it is just the IDEA of running, yeah, that's it, the idea of running....(like I love the idea of going to the gym lol) He goes on to explain that every so often there is that ONE singular perfect day that he laces up his sneakers and goes on THE PERFECT run. When He does, God Always shows him something new. During one such "perfect run" he encountered a homeless man. The man was sound asleep on a park bench but clutched between his arms was an old year book, and around one of his wrists was one of those rubber bracelets with those positive messages scrawled on it. His said, "Aim High".Matthew imagined that the yearbook this man clutched contained a picture of this man when he was younger and more hopeful, perhaps the book was filled with messages from his former friends exchanging their best wishes on graduation day. Words like, "Have a great Summer!" "Stay Cool!" or "Call me this Summer" Likely he was holding on to this book to remember a time when his life held more promise, and less failure, more good times and less mistakes, more opportunities and less regrets, more future and less past.

Maybe you've reached a point in your life where you too are feeling like there is more failure to your life than future. Maybe you don't like who you've become. Maybe you're trying to figure out HOW you fit into this crazy world (and it feels a little like it has gone crazy doesn't it?)

YOU are not alone:

E.E. Cummings wrote:"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you just like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight; and never stop fighting."    

A young man wrote to Matthew and so powerfully illustrated his own fight for identity that E. E. Cummings described in the above quote, that he inspired Matthew to write the song "Hello My Name Is"

Which inspired the book that we are now using as our bible study.

The young man's name was Jordan. His story is not too uncommon. He was the son of a Pastor, grew up in a small Tennessee town,. He was always the "good" kid, never got into any trouble, and he was a gifted athlete. He found his worth in his athleticism.He received an athletic scholarship and became a seven time all American in track and field star. But.....

There's always a but to these stories isn't there?

But during his sophomore season Jordan badly broke his ankle and was prescribed OxyContin. Suddenly he was no longer the "big man on campus" and the star athlete. He began to find his new identity in the pain medication s addiction began to take over his life. He failed not one but two drug tests and was kicked out of college and the sport he loved and stripped of the scholarship he had worked so hard for. His identity was no longer talented athlete, he was now a has been, drug addict.   

His parents didn't give up on him though, and begged him not to give up either, and so he entered a year long recovery program called Teen Challenge. During his time there Jordan began to realize that he had been seeking and finding his identity in the wrong things.The things themselves weren't "bad" things, "Pastor's kid" Good Kid" Star Athlete" but once those titles were removed because of bad choices he was in danger of  making those new identities his forever, "Drug Addict" "Failure" "Loser" and the one we all feel when we fail, "Regret"

During his recovery Jordan learned that he is NOT defined by his successes OR his failures.

Let me say that again so that you too can grasp this freeing bit of knowledge:


Our true identity is found in the One who created us, Who made us and Who LOVES us deeply.

II Corinthians says it like this, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation; old things have passed away; behold ALL things have become new." 

Or as someone once said: Let your only evaluation of worth derive from the awareness of God's LOVE for you. All other measures leave one in a state of delusion."

Once Jordan decided to embrace his true identity in Christ it led to a miraculous transformation in his life. He graduated from recovery, but he knew there was more work to do. He went BACK to the college that kicked him out and earned his Masters. They even allowed him to run for the Track and Field one final time. Today. when Jordan introduces himself, he says, Hello, my name is Jordan, I am a child of the One True King.

We each have a "name tag". It's not your birth name, as some of you may have found that you have spent much of your lives searching for something to fill the blank that comes after "Hello, my name is____". Our birth name does not hold the answers to the questions we seek. As we travel through life we try on different name tags to see how they make us "feel". Which ones are accepted by those around us and which ones are popular. Sometimes we stumble across ones that are unpopular and find ourselves branded with names like "loser" failure" and "regret". Other times we have names tags thrust upon us. Names that hurt us and our view of our true self. Names like "stupid" "worthless" and "moron" and while some of those names may be accurate at describing some aspect of our lives or character at a period or point in our lives, those names DO NOT CAPTURE OUR TRUE IDENTITY or come close to touching the core of WHO and WHAT we are.

When we accept those OTHER names we begin to move away from who we really are.

Even as Adam and Eve were deceived so are we as we begin to accept these negative titles attached to our true identity, and before long that false identity will become the one you identify with.

The KEY to discovering WHO you are is discovering WHOSE you are.

Matthew challenges us to remember the negative identities do not have to stay tagged to our name tags for life. He offers us a chance to get honest with ourselves. He has prayed that we will be overwhelmed by the powerful promises that those old names have no power over you, because God has written your name in permanent ink and all those other names are erasable.

I am praying for you too as we enter this journey together.

Remember this:

"See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! 1 John 3:1