Sunday, March 25, 2012

Walking With Papa

Elisabeth Camping

Over the Christmas holidays I got to spend a week with my granddaughters.  Although I had seen my youngest granddaughter take a few steps previously, this was the first time that I had seen her walking.  Once she started walking she couldn’t be stopped.  She seemed to be walking constantly every waking minute.  She especially liked to walk up and down the stairs. 

Watching her walking everywhere and trying to keep up with her reminded me of the time when my oldest granddaughter first learned to walk.  Although she could take a few steps, what she really wanted to do was to hold my hand and walk.  She wanted to go outside and walk up and down the sidewalk holding on to one finger. Holding on to my finger she had all the confidence in the world and could walk for hours. One afternoon we spent an hour walking outside as fast as her little legs could go. I kept expecting her to get tired of it, but she wanted to keep going. If I even tried to walk toward the door of the house she wouldn’t go that way.

 When we went inside after more than an hour of walking, she kept going to the door and pounding on it. She wanted to go back outside and walk some more. Because I was the one who would take her walking she wanted to spend a lot of her time with me.

I had always loved my granddaughter, but getting to spend so much time with her made me love her even more. Walking together made us both closer to each other. I think that there are a lot of parallels between her experience learning to walk, and our experience being born again. When we are born again we are baby Christians and we have to learn to walk spiritually.

God used that illustration in Hosea 11:3 where it says: “I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms”. In many places in the Bible the idea of God helping us walk with Him are brought out. In Psalms 37:23,24 the Bible says:  “The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” What a beautiful illustration of the Christian life. We are to walk with God and he has promised to hold our hand.

Do we learn to walk with God in the same way that we learned to walk as babies, by trial and error?  Do we stand across the room from our Father and take wobbly footsteps towards Him as he calls to us from a distance "Come to Daddy”.  Do we fall down repeatedly as we try to get it right? God has a different plan for us. Psalms 56:13 says “You have delivered my soul from death. You have kept my feet from falling, so I will walk with you in light among the living”. God doesn’t want you to fall. He wants you to hold his hand.

As parents we want our children to learn to take care of themselves; to stand on their own two feet.  We realize that we won't be there for them forever. They need to learn to take care of themselves. So from babyhood to adulthood we are continually learning how to take care of ourselves.  God's goal for us is very different. He is our Eternal Father; He is always available to us. Instead of wanting us to become increasingly independent, He wants us to learn to be increasingly dependent on Him. He wants us to walk with Him, our hand in His. He doesn't want us taking off on our own two feet. I believe that as human beings this is one of our hardest lessons.

Have you ever taken a walk on a busy street with a two year old? You point out to him the pretty gardens you are walking past; the beautiful flowers, the scampering squirrel, the pretty song bird; but he's not interested. He's too busy trying to pry free from your hold. He can't stand holding your hand. He's a big kid now. He wants to walk on his own.

We as Christians are often like that. Instead of clinging to our Father's hand, we have this tendency to take off on our own two feet. There are so many charming things that take our attention from Him. Sometimes we don't like to be restricted by holding his hand. Some of those Bible principles cramp our style. Sometimes we let the cares of this world pull us away from Him, and instead of holding tighter to His hand, we let go.

Whenever we let go we inevitably fall down and hurt ourselves and then we sink into discouragement and we look to God and we say "Father, what's this all about? Why did you let me fall?  Why didn’t you stop this from happening to me?" And then He looks at us sadly and says "Child, you let go of my hand. You took off on your own. I am able to keep you from falling, but you must keep your hand in mine."

We don’t know what is before us. The future can be a frightening thing.  Our only safety is in walking with Christ, our hand in His.

Identity Theft

"Who am I?" I can show you my driver's license, social security card, passport, a birth certificate, credit cards,  – and they all prove to you that I am Richard Lawry born in Madison, Tennessee. There is no one else in the entire world who can be me.  That is unless I become a victim of identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The FTC estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.

I recently experienced this problem when I noticed some charges on my bank account that I knew I had not made.  After numerous calls to the company, and promises that the money would be refunded it never was.  Identity theft is a serious problem.

A few months ago I read in the news a bizarre identity theft story.   Jakadrien Turner ran away from home in the fall of 2010 when she was just 14. She left home under duress caused by her parents' divorce and her grandfather's death. Jakadrien made her way to Houston, where she was soon arrested by police for shoplifting a white shirt, black vest and jeans.

That's when things took a bizarre turn. Jakadrien gave the police a false name and her new alias just happened to match up with the name of a 22-year-old Colombian citizen who had been in the United States illegally. To compound Turner's plight further, the Colombian national had a warrant out for her arrest. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then deported Jakadrien in April 2011.  After Jakadrien was deported, she was given a work card in Colombia and released onto the streets.

 Her grandmother, Lorene Turner, had been looking on her computer every night for clues to her granddaughter's location, and was cooperating with Dallas police as she carried out her search.  She spent months monitoring Facebook postings she believed to be her granddaughters that led her to think that she was in Columbia. 

When the story was reported in the U.S. media, The Colombian Institute for Family Welfare confirmed that Turner was in its custody.  After a joint investigation by U.S. and Columbian authorities, Jakadrien Turner arrived back in Texas, eight months after she was mistakenly deported to Colombia.

As sad and disturbing as this story is, Jakadrien brought these problems upon herself by using a stolen identity. 

Now I’m sure that you or I would never think of being identity thieves.  A person’s identity is the most important thing that they own.   How does the Bible identify you?  In 2 Corinthians 6:18 The Bible tells us, “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”

You are a child of God, but someone wants to steal your identity.  We read in Rev 13:16,17 “ He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads  and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 

Satan knows our true identity as sons and daughters of God, but he wants to give a new identity.  He wants to give us his name. 

There is a passage in Exodus 34 where the name of God is equated with his character.  We read in verses 5 and 6, “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.”

God has given us his name just like a father passes on his name to his children.  God’s true identity is His character.  He wants our identity to be His character, but Satan also wants our name, our identity, to be his character.

Satan’s character, the name he wants to give us, is outlined in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 where it says, “this know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.

If we see ourselves anywhere in this passage we are guilty of identity theft.  God’s character, the name he has given us, is found in Galatians 5:22,23   The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. 

Don’t be like Jakadrian who stole the identity of someone and ended up being deported.  You are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.  You are a child of the king of the universe.  With an identity like that why would we want to be an identity thief?