Well, I’ve finished the first draft of “Do You Know Who I AM” and now I’m proofing it. For those of you who read my draft of chapter one: Wow! Sorry I made you struggle through that! It’s amazing how poorly one can write when one is focused on the message and not on the grammar or the presentation.
So, Here’s a second draft of Chapter one – Hopefully a little more readable. If you haven’t read it yet, consider yourself blessed and give this one a try . . .
Pressing on toward the goal . . .
Of Princes and Princesses
John 1:1-14 (NIV)
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.
3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1 John 2:28 – 3:3 (NIV)
28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.
3:1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
A Fish Story
The American River flows down the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the town of Coloma, where gold was discovered in California, and winds its ways through the Mother Lode. As it approaches Sacramento, before it connects with the Sacramento River, it goes right by my great-grandpa’s ranch. I spent many a summer day at that ranch when I was growing up, playing in the mud from the rain, in the mud on the shores of the American River, and in just about any mud I could find.
My great-grandfather was quite a story teller. He was in his 90s when I was a very young boy and he used to sit on the porch with me and tell all kinds of stories. He’d often tell a whopper of a story about a well-pipe that was about halfway to the back of the property.
You see, on the front half of the property, between the highway and the pipe, my great-grandfather raised Black Angus steers. He leased the back part of the property, which stretched all the way to the American River, to a Japanese family, the Kumamotos, who grew vegetables. Right on the dividing line of the property was this well-pipe, about 18 inches in diameter, we used to draw water for both the cattle and the vegetables.
My great grandpa told me that somebody had been fishing down in the river and caught a catfish. It was too small to keep and eat, but they didn’t throw it back. They stuck it in their bucket, and, on the way back to the highway, whether out of cruelness or spite, they dropped the catfish in that well-pipe. He said that, over time, that catfish grew, but he didn’t grow regularly, because of the size of that well-pipe.
“Some folks say”, my great-grandpa opined, “that if you go out at midnight, on a full moon, and you look down in that well-pipe at just the right angle, you can see that ol’ catfish swimming around in there, but he is all deformed.” He said, “His head is normal size, but because of the constraints of that well-pipe, he’s small and scrawny on the back part.”
Well, I never did sneak out to that well-pipe on a full-moonlit midnight, I was much too young, and so I was never able to discover if the marks of one fish’s despair were actually true. But over my thirty-plus years in the ministry, I have run into a lot of folks who are not unlike that poor old catfish. They’ve decided to live their lives in of a well-pipe of their own making. Though their bodies don’t appear stunted, every time I see someone who holds fast to being trapped in their own well-pipe, I’m reminded of that old catfish, swimming around in his loneliness, out in my great-granddaddy’s pasture.
Claiming Our Birth-Right
The Apostle John addressed a similar human condition at the beginning of his Gospel and again in his first letter to the early Christians. He wanted us to know that there’s absolutely no reason for us to be stuck in a confining life. We were not only created with free-will, but that God offers us so much more just for the asking.
We read, in both John’s Gospel and his letter, a phrase that has caused difficulty for both historians and theologians. It’s just three little words, but those three words have caused a lot of controversy over the centuries. Those three words are “Children of God”.
The Greek word that John uses here for the word we translate as “Children, is “τέκνον” pronounced teknon. From this we derive the word ‘technology’. In this context τέκνον literally means “a child as birthed or produced”.
You see, the problem, theologically, is that there are a bunch of words that John could have used for “children” in his phrase “Children of God”. He could have used the word “υἱός” (pronounced wee-use) which is a Greek word that is often used for the word “son” or for “children”. My biblical Greek dictionary defines υἱός as “used widely of immediate, remote, or figurative relationship”.
In regular English, that’s like when the principal says to the little boy who’s in trouble, “Son, come over here”. That little boy is not the principal’s son; he didn’t birth him, or produce him, but there is a relationship between these two but the boy may not be too happy about that relationship. But John didn’t use υἱός. I’m sure that those of you, who are mothers, will definitely argue that it’s much more difficult to produce a son than it is to become familiar with one. My wife reminds me of this all the time. It doesn’t help that she’s a labor and delivery nurse . . .
It is important to note that John wants to emphasize that we are God’s children and that there is a particular type of relationship we share with Him; it’s not just a relationship of proximity or convenience; In God’s eyes, we are as His “Birthed” children. John causes theological trouble because, if you take this seriously (which I think is his intention behind going against convention and using the word τέκνον), in God’s eyes we are literally the same as Jesus.
Now hang with me for a second: In the same way that Jesus is God’s begotten son (the same word in the Greek: τέκνον), we are also God’s children. Some theologians would say I can’t claim this because Jesus was perfect, they site the whole Virgin Mary thing, that angels were singing, and the big star, etc. Well there weren’t any angels singing at my birth and none of us is without sin, but still, I am not detoured.
Maybe it would be better if I explain it like this: Those of you who are parents can, I’m sure, remember those times when your children not the little angels you raised them to be. Going a hundred miles an hour all day long, by about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, they finally got on your very last nerve and it was all you could do to keep from sending them away; that boarding school in Switzerland was sounding like a real good idea.
Well God is gracious, and eventually they got tired and they fell asleep. Then at about 10:30 PM, you headed off to bed and you, oh so very, very quietly walked by their room. As carefully as you could, you opened their door, praying desperately that it wouldn’t squeak. Then you peeked in and you saw their angelic little faces, sleeping so peacefully, and you remembered why it was that you love them.
I believe that’s the way God sees us. In the same way we lovingly look at that beautiful, quiet, sleeping child; God sees us. Our problem is that we can’t see ourselves when we’re sleeping. When we look at the mirror in the morning, we see the hair standing strait up, the bags under our eyes, and pillow lines all over our face. We can’t see ourselves the way God sees us, but John reminds us that we are “the children of God”.
Acknowledging Our SELF-Limitations
My step-cousin Taylor was one of my favorite relatives. One Halloween a few years back, his granddaughter came over to ‘trick or treat’ at his house in Rio Linda, California. If you’ve ever listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, you probably know about Rio Linda; they don’t have a whole lot of sidewalks there.
Well, it rained that day and Cousin Taylor’s little granddaughter showed up in her princess costume, but so she wouldn’t drag it through the mud, her mom took the bottom half off: Taylor’s granddaughter was wearing the top half of a princess outfit but the bottom half was just shorts.
When he saw them arrive, Taylor came running out to the house and said, “That’s the craziest Halloween costume I’ve ever seen. What are you supposed to be?” Taylor’s granddaughter put her hands on her hips and said, “What’s the matter with you grandpa, can’t you tell that I’m half a princess?
We are all a lot like her aren’t we? Our problem is that we’re only willing to admit to being “half a princess” or “half a prince”: We know that we’re a child of God, but we can’t buy in the whole majesty thing. We know about our royal heritage, but yet we choose to live as paupers. The passage at the beginning of this chapter from First John says that we’re to “be confident and unashamed before God”. I’d wager that not many of us come before God confident and unashamed.
Lavished with Love
I believe that John is telling us that God sees us as His children, and in His eyes we are just like Jesus, without blemish, princes and princesses. We need to know that God chose us and that should be the impetus for great confidence. Focus for a minute on this verse:
“How great is the love the father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).
You probably don’t have them where you live, but in California we have these restaurants called “Fresh Choice”. It’s supposed to be one of those healthy restaurants: It has a gigantic salad bar and a huge pasta bar. Now I’m not a big salad fan, nor am I a much of a pasta fan, but I do like Fresh Choice restaurants because of one thing: they have cinnamon butter. When I go to Fresh Choice, I will reserve more than half my stomach’s space at dinner for bread with cinnamon butter and when I take my warm sourdough bread to the cinnamon butter container, I LAVISH the cinnamon butter on it.
At the age of 60, my cousin Taylor adopted an 8 year old boy. This boy was his neighbor and Taylor and his wife kind of served as his grandparents, because his real grandparents had passed away. One weekend, the boy’s parents wanted to go to Lake Tahoe for an adult getaway, so Taylor said he’d watch the boy for the weekend. On the way back from Tahoe a drunk driver hit the boy’s parents car and there were killed.
Instead of sending that boy to the receiving home, Taylor and his wife got permission from the county to keep him for a while. They grew to love that boy and they finally adopted him. Taylor said, “Even though I’m 60, that little boy has rejuvenated me.”
For those of you who have a parental relationship with children that you did not “produce”, you know what it means to bring a child into the family that is not yours. You know what it means to “choose to love” a child. In the same way, God adopted us as his children and lavished us with his love!
Living Confidently and Unashamed
The reality is that we’re not like that old catfish: If we find ourselves stuck in a well-pipe, it’s not because of someone else’s choice; it’s because of our own. If we remain stuck in a well of our own making it’s because of our own choice too. Unlike that catfish, or any of God’s other creatures, you and I have alternatives. We have choices, and on the day that Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly”, all helplessness evaporated.
He does offer us a more abundant life, but he never said we wouldn’t suffer. He never said life wouldn’t be difficult at times. He didn’t say that there wouldn’t be opportunities for us to throw ourselves into a well-pipe.
Suffering seems to be a part of every life, but here is something that I want you to underline, highlight, circle, or do whatever you do:
Though suffering is an inevitable part of living,
misery is optional.
Suffering is inevitable, misery is optional. If you are miserable it’s because you’ve chosen to be.
We all know one of those people: they have the worst life imaginable, and yet they are always happy. It seems inconceivable with all they have to put up with, but they smile and rejoice anyway. In fact you’ve probably asked them, “What is the matter with you? You should be miserable!” Well, they are joyful because they choose to be joyful.
When you understand that God chose you to be His child and that, when He looks on that beautiful sleeping face of yours, He sees a child that is equal to, and just as much loved as His Son Jesus Christ, there’s no reason to be miserable. You see, God has so lavished His love on us “that we should be called the children of God. And that is what we are!” Live confidently and unashamed because God has claimed you as His child!
I’ll never have the opportunity to go out and find out if that catfish really was stuck in that well: Houses now occupy what was once my great-grandaddy’s pasture. He passed on a long, long time ago, and I never got to ask him whether that story was true. But ever since I heard that story as a little boy, I wished it wasn’t true. I wished it wasn’t true for that catfish and I pray it’s not true for you.
Don’t get yourself stuck in a well of your own making. Know that God’s love has been lavished on you and because of that love, you can live confidently and unashamed.