Friday, August 4, 2017

Identity Crisis

Who am I? I can pull out 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.

Have you ever Googled yourself to see what comes up in an internet search of your name? I did. I found an actor named Richard Lawry who appeared on four different tv shows in the 1990’s. I found out that in 2014, Richard Lawry passed away in a motorcycle accident. Richard Lawry is the chairman of EGL, a merchant banking firm focused on merger and acquisition advisory services and providing capital to early and growth stage businesses.

There is also a Richard Lawry who was a naval compass electrician during WWII and then was an insurance adjuster for thirty years. Richard Lawry is the vicar at Norbury Church near Manchester, England. And I found records that show that in 1797, Richard Lawry was born in Cornwall, England.

One of the more interesting stories that I found was the 1794 murder of Lieutenant Richard Lawry in Newfoundland. Lieutenant Lawry oversaw a press gang. The purpose of a press gang was to enlist men forcibly into service in the navy.

When I was in school, I learned that one of the causes of the War of 1812 was that Americans were outraged by the British Royal Navy’s practice of impressment, or removing seamen from U.S. vessels and forcing them to serve in the British Navy. Impressing American sailors became a common practice, with an estimated 15,000 American sailors impressed into the British Royal Navy in the years leading up to 1812.

Although I knew about the impressment of American sailors, I was not aware of the impressment of sailors from the Maritime Provinces in Canada. The Crown claimed a permanent right to seize men of seafaring experience for the Royal Navy. The men pressed into service were usually sailors in the merchant fleets, but would often be ordinary apprentices and laborers.

The Royal Navy used press gangs to force men into service. Press gangs operated in British North America with the legal backing of the British Parliament. A commissioned officer would lead the press gang with ten or so sailors under his command. A ship would come to a seaport, and if they needed men, the press gang would go ashore and force men to serve on the ship.

As you can imagine, these press gangs were extremely unpopular. They took men from their families by force and left many cities with a diminished work force. The use of press gangs sparked resistance, riots, and political turmoil in seaports such as Halifax, St. John's, and Quebec City. In spite of its unpopularity, the Royal Navy increased the use of press gangs in coastal areas of British North America. In response, sailors and residents fought back with a range of tactics. They sometimes reacted violently.

The murder of Lieutenant Richard Lawry happened in St. John’s, Newfoundland in 1794. In October of that year, the warship Boston was ready to set sail from St. John’s after taking on supplies for a long voyage. The Boston was short eighteen men, so Lieutenant Richard Lawry led a press gang ashore to impress men into service. Lieutenant Lawry and several other sailors were escorting two recently impressed sailors when a mob attacked them.

According to reports from that time, the crowd behaving in a “riotous and tumultuous manner,” liberated the two pressed sailors and then beat “Lieutenant Lawry in so unmerciful a manner that he died the next morning of the wounds he had received in this fray.” Lawry’s murder was the only large-scale press gang disturbance in Newfoundland’s history and is considered one of the most serious crimes ever committed in Newfoundland. The incident brought press gangs into the spotlight, and they were used much less after the murder of Lieutenant Lawry. The last use of press gangs in Newfoundland was in 1815.

I had to stop Googling myself because I had already spent several hours just searching the internet for Richard Lawry.

I’m sure you have heard of a crime that is now quite common: 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 nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year. In fact, you or someone you know may have experienced some form of identity theft.

The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make or until a debt collector contacts you.

Identity theft is serious. While some identity theft victims can resolve their problems quickly, others spend thousands of dollars and many days repairing damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

A few years 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 because of the stress 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 make matters worse, the Colombian national had a warrant out for her arrest.
Authorities believed Jakadrien’s story because she maintained her false identity throughout the process. They handed her over to an immigration judge, who ordered her removed from the country. "At no time during these criminal proceedings was her identity determined to be false," the agency says.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then deported Jakadrien in April 2011.  After the girl had gone missing, the family tracked her to Houston. They tried to get help from authorities, but no one would listen to them. After Jakadrien had been 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 Jakadrien 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. The institute said that Colombian authorities learned that this female might be a 15-year-old American citizen, after which she was placed in a protection program there.

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. I want to take a few minutes and talk about your spiritual identity
How does the Bible identify you?  2 Corinthians 6:18 (NKJV)  “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. Someone wants to steal your identity. Can our spiritual identity be stolen? How do we protect our identity?

Revelation 13:16 (NKJV)  “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.” What do we call this mark? We refer to it as the mark of the beast. It sounds like someone wants to steal our identity.

Satan doesn’t like your identity as a child of God, and he wants to mark you as his. He is not stupid. He knows that you believe that God has asked you to keep the Ten Commandments. He will have to try something different with you.

There is a clue about how Satan will operate in Revelation 13:17 (NKJV). “No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

As Christians, we always focus on the mark but did you listen to the or. One who has the mark or the name of the beast.  How would we end up with the name of the beast?

The question is how we might end up with the name of the beast. Let’s start in Exodus 34:4-6 (NKJV). “So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. 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.”

I want you to notice that God equated his name with character traits. Satan doesn’t want you to have the name of God. He wants to give you his name. That is the name of the beast. He wants you to take on his character traits.  Galatians 5:19-21 (NKJV) “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

If your name equals your character traits, then this is the name of Satan and the name of the beast. I take great comfort in the fact that some of these things I have absolutely no problem with. Unfortunately, I don’t have to have all of these traits to take on the name of the beast. Any of them will do.

Let’s go back to Revelation 13:16 (NKJV)  “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.” The beast wants a mark in our hand or our forehead.

What does God want in our hand and forehead?  Deuteronomy 6:6-8 (NIV)  “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

God wants us to keep his words in our hands and on our forehead. Satan wants us to have his mark in our hands and on our forehead. Satan knows that as a Bible student and fully aware Christian, you won’t go for his mark, so he will be just as happy for you to have his name.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV) says, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will 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. And from such people turn away!”

Satan knows that he might not be able to get you with the Mark of the Beast, so he devised a new plan. He won’t give you the mark; he will give you his name. Satan is happy with giving you just a part of his name. You don’t have to be a Satan worshipper to have his name. You just need to have a few of his characteristics.

In 1 Kings 3:16-27 (NLT) we find this story. “ Some time later two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house. “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”

Then the other woman interrupted, “It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine.” “No,” the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so they argued back and forth before the king.

Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. All right, bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought to the king. Then he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!” But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!” Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!”

The two women in this story can represent God and Satan. Like the one mother whose child had died, Satan is happy just to have a piece of you. As long as he has a piece of you, he knows that God can’t allow you in his kingdom. God, on the other hand, wants all of you. Matthew 22:37 (NKJV) “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”

Satan says I don’t care if you go to church. I don’t care what day you go to church. I don’t care what you eat or if you pay tithe. I don’t care what your doctrinal beliefs are. As long as I can have a piece of you, it’s fine with me. If you have just a bit of my character, my name, I don’t care what else you call yourself. Christian, Child of God. I just don’t care as long as it is hyphenated with my name.

God doesn’t want hyphenated Christians. In the commandments, he tells us, “Don’t take my name in vain.” He doesn’t want us to be an identity thief.

Alexander the Great was visiting one of his camps. One of his generals had a soldier who was difficult to deal with, so he decided to delay deciding on the punishment until Alexander could deal with the situation. The soldier was sent to Alexander’s tent. The soldier is scared to death. He knew he was in serious trouble if the great Alexander was to deal with him. When the soldier comes before Alexander, the great general and king bellows, “young man what is your name!” The frightened young soldiers says haltingly; it’s Alexander sir. Alexander the great flew into a rage. He asked again, “what is your name?” It’s Alexander sir. That’s not your name. You tell me your real name right now. My name is Alexander sir. Alexander the Great answered, “I just have one thing to say to you.  Either you change your behavior, or you change your name.”

Change your behavior or change your name. God wants people with his whole name, not hyphenated. Not having a form of godliness but denying the power of God. God wants people with his name. God wants people with his character. Galatians 5:22,23 (NKJV) “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

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 you want to be an identity thief?

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