It's in all of us. Whose will you choose?
Growing up I distinctly remember my identity. I allowed the world to determine it. Due to my hobby of pageantry I was “the beauty queen.” My family, my parent’s friends, my peers, and many strangers gave me that identity. It was great…for a while. Until it failed me. After a 7-year loosing streak I hit a several year winning streak. But, when I didn’t win, I considered my performance and myself to be a failure compared to the one(s) who did win. I chose the hobby of pageantry to embrace the temporary identity as the beauty queen rather than my eternal identity as daughter of the King. Both royalty. One fading. One continuing to grow brighter than Swarovski rhinestones. If only I could have learned from my second child 15 years ago what I know now.
As I watch Asa, our newly adopted 10-year-old son, blossom in his new home, one thing stands out over everything else: he eagerly embraces the identity of his new family while refusing to stay in his old life. He sees Mama and Daddy’s wedding band tattoos and grabs a pen to draw one for himself. He sees the doctor exam Mama first and he let’s them exam him. He sees our head bowed in prayer and our hands raised in worship and he does the same. He isn’t concerned with what anyone may think. He doesn’t hesitate to do what we do and say what we say. We offer him candy like he was offered in the orphanage and he turns it down. We give him Chinese music and television shows to watch and he changes it to Western ones. We call him “Yan Yan,” the name he had for 10 years, and he doesn’t respond. We call him Asa, his new name, and he jumps in attention. He embraces his new identity assertively, eager to jump in and learn what it is all about, while refusing to look back, even at old pictures.
It makes me think about the identity that I am showing him, and how much I lack the identity that he so eagerly wants to embrace. I was born with Adam’s identity and chose to embrace the identity that God, my Father, offers me, as His daughter. As “blah, blah, blah” and “yeah, yeah, yeah”as it can sound, it is true that I have the same option as Asa had when he said, “Yes” to being an equal heir to Billy Wayde in the Harris family. This same option, the option that God offers to anyone who wants to be true royalty, was decided before time began.
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ…” -Ephesians 1:5a
In advance of His creation accepting or rejecting him. In advance of Jesus dying on the cross. In advance he predestined that we should have the option to be restored to Him through the perfect sacrifice of His son. He didn't chose this with remorse or sadness in his heart. He chose it with great pleasure. That is why we praise Him. We praise Him because he continues to pour out His grace on us, his children (and hopefully his soon-to-be children), as we continue to embrace our true identity as royalty.
“…This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear son.”
Over the next few weeks I hope to encourage you (and myself) in fearlessly embracing your identity in Christ, just as Asa is going full-speed at embracing his new life in the Harris household. We will look together at:
As we rediscoverr the truth about who we are as everlasting royalty, let me assure you that it doesn’t always look like royalty. In fact, Paul labels the believers in Ephesus as “saints” who are “faithful followers” of the Lord Jesus Christ. He reminds them that “the truth is in Jesus” and we must put on the “righteousness and purity of the truth.” As dazzling as this purity sounds and actually is, it comes with much mud; rejection, suffering, and perseverance. I would like to say that it will look like the the royal family on the cover of People magazine, but it won’t. It is dirtier and more of a “Cinderella story” than Kate could have ever imagined.
Thankfully, and only by God's divine sovereignty, Asa is choosing to embrace the identity of the new family to which he belongs. Identity. It's in all of us. Whose will you choose?
On a side note, this Friday, June 16, I will be on the “Kickin’ it with Karen” show on I Am Christian Radio at 12 noon EST and will be discussing the recent adoption of our eldest son. If you have any questions about the adoption process, our journey, why we chose this, or anything else, send an e-mail prior to the show to VictoriaHarrisPR@gmail.com. And be sure to set a reminder to tune in online at www.iamchristianradio.com.
If I miss you Friday, I will see you back here in one week for our Identity: Who you are now vs. who you were then. (Part 2).
Victoria Harris holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Victoria is a lover of Jesus, a wife, biological mom of a toddler and adoptive mom of a tween. She is a former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida U.S. Follow her on twitter @VictoriaDHarris, Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdharris or instagram @VictoriaRatliffHarris.
It’s interesting to watch God work. On the flight home with Asa I opened my Bible and the page it fell on was the last page that I read before getting our son. My eye immediately went to the last thing I underlined: “Now, Return home and tell of what the Lord has done for you (Luke 8:39).”
As I sit here on the first morning of being home, the house is still and quiet. I open my Bible and it falls on another scripture that I underlined a few weeks ago: “…because of your shameless audacity” your friend will give you what you need (Luke 11:8b).
In the first scripture Jesus restores a man possessed with demons. You could say he was a crazy man. Naked, ashamed, afraid, living in the tombs. When Jesus withdrew the Legion, the many demons from the man, he was restored to sanity. The man then begged to go with Jesus and His response was no. He wanted to use this man in a specific way. He told him to return home and tell how much God had done for him. Seeing this verse on the way to China and again on the flight home reminded me of the beautiful truth that we all must tell of how much God has done for us. God sending Jesus, His only son, to take the punishment that we deserve as sinners is enough to tell about. That alone is sufficient. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is what we are to “return home and tell about.” #allday #everyday #toeveryone | It’s easier said then done, but why? It shouldn’t be. Jesus is the only hope to anyone in this world. Regardless of what’s at stake, He must be shared.
In the second passage Jesus is giving an example of asking Him for what we need and trusting that He will provide. He calls us to be shameless for Him…to expect big things for Him, not because of us, but because he is a big God and is capable to fulfill them all. The beautiful thing is that He knows what will best serve His kingdom. Even if our shameless audacity to ask of Him what we think we need isn’t what is best for us and His kingdom, we can trust that He knows what is the best because of His sovereignty and our sinfulness.
Ask, seek, and receive. This is the next verse. We asked for Asa, sought after him, and have now received him. But we didn’t get to this point because we wanted it. More than any other time in our lives we asked that if our desires were not in alignment with the Lord’s plan for our lives that He close this door. There even came a point where I had to be willing to accept a different child, should that be the Lord’s plan. Imagine being in the hospital with your new born baby, not knowing if you will see him again, and the Lord saying, “No, someone else get’s this child. I’m giving you a different one.” This is what I had to come to terms with, knowing that His will and wisdom would always be sovereign over mine.
It’s His will and His plan. He provided and proved Himself as God, sovereign Lord, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, time and time again. #onlyGodisGod
To read more about our story, visit www.bringhunterhome.com
Victoria Harris holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Victoria is a lover of Jesus, a wife, biological mom of a toddler and adoptive mom of a tween. She is a former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida U.S. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdharris, on twitter @VictoriaDHarris, or on instagram @VictoriaRatliffHarris.
At our church we have women's small groups that meet monthly to discuss a devotion, pray, and fellowship. Our church has four main services on Sunday morning so the goal of these groups is to connect the women from each service and age groups. Many people have commented on March's devotion as being helpful for them, so I wanted to share it here...
There are those Sundays when “It’s just too cold,” “I want to sleep just little more,” or “We could take a day trip to the beach.” I have had plenty of those myself. There was a time when I remember using one (or more!) of those excuses to ‘skip’ church every so often. Then, I became so good at it, I decided to work on Sundays. It wasn’t every Sunday, but it was enough for me to justify “touching lives” and being able to have the highest income by working on that day of the week. Not only were my clients watching and learning from my priorities, so was my husband.
As winter winds down and spring begins to blossom we can easily loose focus of the most important part of our lives here on earth: reaching our world for Christ. During the coming spring and summer months it becomes easy to forget our mission and fall back into 1) mundane church activities, or 2) minimal, if any, church attendance (often times we may only be present physically).
Mark Mittleberg puts it like this: “[We] need to be reminded of why [we] are here. Evangelism is not an optional activity. It is at the very core of our mission, which is to reach our world with the gospel. That’s why Jesus spelled it out so clearly: to go into all the world (including next door or down the hallway) to reach everyone we can for him (Matthew 28:18-20). This Great Commission wasn’t one choice among many options. It’s what we’re here to do.”1
Worshipping God is an act of service, both inside and outside of the church building. That is how we reach the world with the gospel. Listen to the words of Mohandas Gandhi: “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. Its just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
These words, as true as they are, frighten me, break my heart, and make me remorseful because I am one of those that he is talking about who is so “unlike Christ.” But more than that...they motivate me.
When it comes to church, we must come ready to worship and serve the one true God. Then, we must go out into the world and unpack what we have learned for ourselves, family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. This is how we will reach the world for Christ. Continually worshipping. Continually serving.
After all, this is God’s will—let’s make a commitment now, and be bold about it.
“You are the light of the world...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give flory to your Father who is in Heaven.”2
1 Written by Mark Mittelberg in Sean McDowell’s A New Kind of Apologist, p. 51.
2 Matthew 5:14-16, paraphrased.
Victoria Harris holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. She is a former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida U.S. Victoria is a lover of Jesus, a wife, biological mom of a toddler and soon-to-be adoptive mom of a tween. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdharris, on twitter @VictoriaDHarris, or on instagram @VictoriaRatliffHarris.
Last night my husband and I watched the beloved classic, Beauty and the Beast. After having read reviews from its first viewers and from those that have chosen to boycott the film and Disney, I knew that I had to see it. The movie well surpassed all of my expectations and was a delight to see. It depicted a culturally relevant worldview of the enchanted fairytale, first written in 1740 and brought to the big screen by Walt Disney in 1991.
So, why would someone not want the new version of this movie to be seen? Perhaps because it goes against one’s views of marriage, sexuality, gender, or something else. As one who believes strongly in the Biblical (traditional) definition of marriage, keeping natural born gender as the only option, and sexuality to be expressed only in the role of a traditional marriage, I will watch this movie again (and probably again and again). Likewise, I will watch it with my older children. Why? Because it allows for important conversations to be had inside the home about the world around us.
1.) Conversations: To think that we can close our eyes and dream of the world the way we want it to be is ignorant. In the words of Paul: “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” We see an example of this hardness of heart in Mark 3:1-6 when Jesus heals the withered hand of a man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were waiting for Jesus to “make a mistake,” so-to-speak, so that they could have him destroyed (verse 6). In this passage, Jesus asked these religious leaders a simple question: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” The hardness in their heart was shown in their silence. While the Pharisees could have thought this was a trick question, if their hearts had truly loved God they would have known that there was only one right answer: “to do good…to save a life.”
As Christians, we have three choices. We can 1) choose to be silent, like the Pharisees, and have our hearts hardened (or, in this case, desensitized to our changing world), 2) condemn those whose sin looks different than ours through actions such as anger outrage and boycotts, or 3) love people with the compassionate, gracious, accepting love that Christ has for us. The only way we will win people’s hearts to the Lord is through speaking truth in love. And, those conversations begin at home.
Beauty and the Beast is the perfect opportunity to discuss what God says about sexuality, including homosexuality, and gender identity. This is the main reason why my husband and I will watch this movie (and others like it) with our children when they reach the appropriate age. [A great resource on how to have these difficult conversations in a world where everything is relative is The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowell. You can read my review of the book here.]
The rising generation is being saturated with “equality for all” messages, produced by pop culture and endorsed by parents. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in equality for all. The equality that I believe in is objective. It has a standard that makes everyone equal and does not discriminate against race, gender, culture, ethnicity, or type of sin. The difference is that this equality must have a personal Creator who understands our struggles and provides the same solution for all.
2.) Belle: Belle makes the movie. She is the epitome of grace, dignity, strength, and courage, all-the-while showing signs of real-life acceptance issues. She has the desire for others to want and accept her, but she chooses to uphold her boundaries, even when it makes her an outcast. In one scene Belle’s father tells her that people mocked her mother as well, but one day she found those same people imitating her. Jesus was mocked on many occasions (Luke 22:63; Mark 14:65; Mark 15:17; Matt. 27:29, Luke 23:39). His life was different. He had a purpose. He had a mission. His mission was to do His Father’s will. He wasn’t concerned with what others thought. Paul mocked those who followed Christ. Until one day, he saw Christ, and began to imitate them (Acts 9).
This is what Belle depicts. She doesn’t fall into the trap of pursuing the guy every girl wants or sacrificing her passion even when others think it is unimportant or ridiculous. How I wish someone would have had a discussion about Belle with me as a teenager. This is the type of girl I want for my sons; one who knows her boundaries and seeks her passion wholeheartedly, without compromise.
3.) The Gospel: Beauty and the Beast is filled with opportunities to share the Gospel. In the opening scene with the Prince, he is warned to not be deceived by appearances because beauty lies within. He chooses to ignore this old lady, and, you know the story, after given a second chance, it then becomes too late and he is put under a curse. He begs for forgiveness, but this lady had seen the hate in his heart and continues with her plan.
As the movie progresses we see Belle talking to the other “people” in the castle. While she talks to the Prince’s friends she notices that they love him even though they did nothing and he cursed them. These friends of the Prince had a love based on condition. They loved him because they wanted something from him and only he could give them what they wanted. Yes, it is true that we want eternal life, but having our hearts, minds, and souls love the Lord by believing that Jesus Christ is the only atonement for our sins is the only way for that to happen. He sees our ugly. He sees the ugly on the outside that everyone else sees, just like the ugly that Belle first saw in the Beast. But, He also sees the ugly on the inside that no one knows except us and Him. What a wonderful opportunity to speak of God’s unconditional love; a love that can never be earned, only received as a free gift.
My advice? Take your children that are of age. Enjoy a delightful fairytale. Prepare to have difficult conversations with them. and most importantly, have the conversations. If you don’t, someone will. And they may not go as you would like…
(Part 3 of 3 on Biblical Reliability)
The argument has been made that “the apostles died uniquely for the belief that they had actually seen the risen Christ.”(1) But, do we actually know how each one of them died? While this isn’t exactly the question I would ask, it does spark the interest of many Christians and non-Christians. The fast answer is no, we do not know how all of them died. We know by tradition how most of them died, but we can’t write that in stone for all of them. What we do know is this:
“The apostles spent between one and a half and three years with Jesus during his public ministry, expecting him to proclaim his kingdom on earth. Although disillusioned at his untimely death, they became the first witnesses of the risen Jesus and they endured persecution; many subsequently experienced martyrdom, signing their testimony, so to speak, in their own blood. The strength of their conviction, marked by their willingness to die, indicates that they did not fabricate these claims; rather, without exception, they actually believed Jesus to have risen from the dead…[This lends] credibility to their claims about the veracity of resurrection, which is fundamental to the case for Christianity.
We must recognize that this in and of itself only shows their depth of belief; it does not prove Christianity to be true. Candida Moss, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, says,
“Today, we are pointedly aware that martyrdom is not an exclusively Christian practice; virtually every religious group holds the deaths of their heroes in high esteem, and many people have died for religions that no longer exist. Yet many still declare that there is something special about the character and nature of Christian martyrs.”(3)
We must consider the difference here. While Moss is correct that most all religions, and even movements, have martyrs who die for what they believe, the difference is that the apostles believed they had seen the risen Jesus. This is firsthand eye witness evidence as opposed to believing something secondhand. Additionally, they were not OK with simply believing what they saw. Rather, they changed from cowardly men following their leader who were upset at his untimely death, to bold, courageous men ready and willing to die for what they had seen, what they knew to be true.
One last point of consideration, and perhaps one of the most important, is that there is no record of them ever recanting their beliefs. Often times, when put under severe pressure, people will take back what they claimed to believe. Sometimes, this is even done with little or no pressure.
Let’s look at an example of three men were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). These men, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, claim to have seen the gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. However, at some point in each of their lives, they either voluntarily left the LDS church or were excommunicated. In fact, when Martin Harris was asked if he saw the plates with his “naked eyes,” he “looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, ‘No, I saw them with a spiritual eye.’” Additionally, Harris was said to have addressed a congregation and told them that “he never saw the plates with his natural eyes, only in vision or imagination.” Later in life Harris’ recantation was denied. Whitmer also claimed a more spiritual approach to seeing the plates before being excommunicated from the church. At some point each of these three eye-witnesses to the gold plates denied physically seeing the plates.(4)
If your eyewitnesses recant or change their minds at any point, even if they later deny ever doing so, it is reasonable evidence that it probably isn’t true. The apostles never did this. Their story didn’t change and neither did their testimony.
I want to leave you with a final thought from Sean McDowell:
“The willingness of the apostles to suffer and die for their faith contributes significantly to resurrection research. While alone it does not prove the resurrection is true, it does show the apostles sincerely believed it. They were not liars…The apostles proclaimed the risen Jesus to skeptical and antagonistic audiences with full knowledge they would likely suffer and die for their beliefs. All the apostles suffered and were “ready to be put to death,” and we have good reason to believe some of them actually faced execution. There is no evidence they ever wavered. Their convictions were not based on secondhand testimony, but personal experience with the risen Jesus, whom they truly believed was the risen Messiah, banking their lives on it. It is difficult to imagine what more a group of ancient witnesses could have done to show greater depth of sincerity and commitment to the truth.”(5)
(1) Sean McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus. (Routledge: New York, 2016), 3.
(2) McDowell, Sean (2016-03-09). The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus (p. 2). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
(3) Moss, Candida (2013-03-05). The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (p. 17). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
(4) The information in this paragraph is derived from three different sources: 1) John Gilbert, “Memorandum,” September 8, 1892, in EMD, 2: 548; 2) Stephen Burnett to Lyman E. Johnson, April 15, 1838 in EMD, 2:291; 3) Whitmer interview with John Murphy, June 1880, in EMD 5: 63.
(5) McDowell, Fate of the Apostles, 265.
Victoria Harris holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. She is a former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida U.S. Victoria is a lover of Jesus, a wife, biological mom of a toddler and soon-to-be adoptive mom of a tween. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdharris, on twitter @VictoriaDHarris, or on instagram @VictoriaRatliffHarris.Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Victoria is a wife, mom, ambassador of Jesus, and a lover of all things that involve learning.