Day 19: Identity Crisis

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 39:13-20
  • Romans 8:14-17
  • I Peter 2:9
  • I John 3:1

I’m not great at math but by my calculations Joseph was in Potiphar’s home for 11 years. He was 17 when he was sold by his brothers, and he was 30 when Pharaoh promoted him after 2 years in prison. So, 30 – 17 – 2 =’s 11. After 11 years of faithful service to Potiphar, Jospeh’s reputation was trashed, his integrity questioned, his character ignored, and his place of honor and employment ripped away through the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife. 11 years is a long time. And before that, for 17 years Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. For 17 years it looked like his future would be in the family business and beneath the family umbrella of blessing. For 17 years his identity was wrapped in a coat of many colors. At the age of 28 Joseph’s identity had been shattered twice. No longer was he Jacob’s son. No longer was he Potiphar’s powerful attendant. In prison no one cared what his last name was or who his boss used to be.

Can you relate?

Have you ever had an identity crisis? Have you ever looked into the mirror of who the world said you were only to find it shattered by change? Have you ever been left asking yourself, “Who am I after? After graduation? After divorce? After the kids leave? After the lay off? After the move? After the death? After the dream failed?”

Finding our identity in Christ is something we talk about often, but it is more than a trite pat on the head in times of transition or loss. In fact, it is foundational in times of success and achievement as well. The world may call us student, husband, mother, infertile, single, employee, divorcee, leader, and so on. All of those titles can change as quickly as Joseph was thrown out of Potiphar’s home. God calls us His chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His special possession. He calls us His children, adopted into sonship. He rescues us out of the slavery of the world’s identities and declares us heirs to His eternal inheritance.

The truth is, even the best earthly identities become ill-fitting. They are supposed to. Maybe the biggest identity crisis of all is believing the lie that they can define us. Even when we get the promotion instead of the pink slip, even when we get the ring instead of the break up, even when we finally hold the baby we have prayed for, even when the dream comes true, we will never be completely satisfied. We aren’t supposed to be. Our identity in Christ is the only one that will remain and the only one that will fulfill.

Today’s Big Questions: If you were to meet someone new today and they asked “who are you?” what would your initial answer be? Would you identify yourself with earthly roles and identities? How can you change the way you think of your identity so that it lines up with who God says you are?

Prayer Response: No matter if you find yourself in an identity crisis today or not, God is our only constant. Pray into Psalms 62:8 which says, “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him; for God is our refuge.” Confess where you have put your trust in any other identity and pour your heart out to God.

Optional Action Step: Make a list of all your earthly roles and identities (for example: son, wife, father, employee, teacher, etc) down one side of a piece of paper. Then reread today scriptures and list everything God calls you down the other side. Put a big “less than” (<) symbol in the middle to remind yourself that your earthly roles are less than your identity in Christ.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Day 18: Are You a Stumbling Block?

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 39:10-15
  • Romans 14:13-21
  • Philippians 2:3-4

Stumbling block: (noun) an obstacle or hindrance to progress, belief, or understanding

It isn’t a role we want to claim. We deny it. We defend against it. But in Christian community we have to address the places we may be causing others to fall. Hopefully we are not as bold and brash as Potiphar’s wife and her persistent pursuit of Joseph. We may not even be aware of the ways we are making spiritual growth difficult for our brothers and sisters. But if we are to be obedient to Philippians 2:2-4, and value others above ourselves, we have to get honest about the ways we may be tempting others to sin.

The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of grace. As Paul points out in Romans 14, there is an abundance of freedom on our journey – Not permission to sin, but ample room in choosing entertainment, clothing, food, drink, activities, and so much more. God is a good Father and the Holy Spirit will be faithful to direct you as you pray for discernment in each area. However, when the desire to exercise our freedom is more important than the good of others, it becomes an idol.

In his book “Invitation to a Journey,” Robert Mulholland defines spiritual formation as a process of being formed in the image of Christ for the sake of others. We forget this in a culture that elevates independence and privatized faith and morals. Dying to ourselves means that we are intentional about those on the faith journey with us, and we are aware how our choices affect them.

So, are your social media posts causing your sister to struggle with envy? Are your thoughts about food and health encouraging or are you heaping shame on your brother? Has your “venting” caused your friends to entertain anger and negativity about their own situations? Do you tempt others to complain or gossip with you? Are your choices in entertainment or clothing causing someone else to lust? Is your freedom with alcohol confusing to a new believer or hurtful to a friend with an addiction?

When Joesph fled Potiphar’s wife, she became enraged and falsely accused him of attempted rape. When other’s refuse to participate with us in some of these gray areas, what do we do? Are we convicted, or do we defend our “rights?” Do we repent or at least recognize where we have been a stumbling block, or do we roll our eyes at the “goody two shoes” or the “holier than though” rub? Your reaction may reveal an idol of your heart.

Today’s Big Questions: First think about a few of these examples and identify if others have either unknowingly or consciously been a stumbling block to you. Now, honestly assess your choices, your behavior, your words, or the image you may portray to others. Can you see any possible ways you are being a stumbling block?

Prayer Response: Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal any areas that you have put your freedom above the good of others, causing them to stumble. Confess and repent of any ways you have been a stumbling block to your brothers and sisters.

Optional Action Step: If you are feeling brave, ask your family and friends if you have ever caused or encouraged them to sin by your choices, behavior, or words. If so, ask for their forgiveness and give them permission to be honest with you in this area in the future.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Day 17: All Shapes and Sizes

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 39:10-12
  • Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28
  • Luke 22:40
  • I Corinthians 10:12-13
  • James 4:7

I love to garden but I hate to weed. Every spring, I’m discouraged by how overgrown the garden has become while unattended. Before the fun of buying the vegetable plants and digging in the dirt, the big, ugly weeds have to go. I don’t have to look hard to find them. They are obvious, and when they are gone, it makes a huge difference in the garden. Then there are those pesky little weeds that pop up overnight after the garden has been planted. Pulling those usually requires getting down on my hands and knees and plucking them up one by one until my fingers are sore. They aren’t as obvious and it wouldn’t make a huge if I ignored them for a few days. But eventually those little weeds can choke out the harvest and change the landscape of the garden as well.

Temptation comes in all shapes as sizes too. Joseph’s temptation was obvious. Potiphar’s wife was forward and relentless in asking him to come to bed with her. There was nothing subtle in the seduction and there wasn’t a subtle escape route either. We see Jospeh literally running out of the house as she clutched his coat.

Falling to the “big” temptations make a big difference in our lives. Adultery, addiction, murder, stealing- these transgressions are frowned on even in secular culture and can certainly change the landscape of our lives, our witness, our legacy. The longer we walk with Jesus, the farther away those “big” temptations usually become. We learn how to guard ourselves, we weed out the opportunities, and as Jesus directed His disciples in Luke 22:40, we pray not to fall into temptation.

But then there are those painstakingly “small” temptations. We are tempted to worry, to become envious, to yell at the kids, to hold a small grudge, to exaggerate a bit, to tell a “little white lie,” to watch that questionable show everyone is talking about, to have another glass. Just like those little weeds in the garden, the small temptations leading to subtle sins can choke out God’s purposes and a life of integrity over time as well. In God’s economy, all sin is missing the mark of holiness. There is no “big” and “little,” just right and wrong.

Escape routes comes in all shapes and sized also. We may not find ourselves losing our coats as we run out of a room, but we are told to flee the devil. It may be as simple as taking a deep breath before speaking, walking away from a conversation, turning the TV off, refusing to have that conversation in your head. Dramatic or subtle, big or little, God will provide a way out!

Today’s Big Questions: What are the temptations coming at you today? Have you wrongly made a distinction between “big” and “little” temptations? Are you making excuses for ignoring small sins? Can you identify the escape routes God is providing?

Prayer Response: Today take a moment to ask God to deliver you from each temptation you identified by name. Ask your Heavenly Father to make your escape route abundantly clear. If you are willing, speak to a trusted friend and ask for accountability with the temptations you are facing in this season.

Optional Action Step: Go outside and pull a few weeds in the garden, yard, or flower bed. Think about the intentionality and persistence it takes to keep weeds out. Think about how you can be more intentional in recognizing temptation in your life before it becomes sin.

Closing Prayer:Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  – Ephesians 3:20-21