My Life by the Spirit – Identity

Did you know that your God given eternal identity was established long before you were born?  If not, read on.

Part 1 – Surrender
Part 2 – Appointed Times
Part 3 – Identity

I recommend a brief opening prayer to you…

Father, in the name of Jesus, please help me to trust you when you want to tell me about who I am.  Give me the power I need to walk in the identity you gave me before I was born into the earth.

In this post, I’m going to share some defining moments in my life that were all orchestrated by the Holy Spirit to guide me into the place I live and operate today.

For 27 years of my life, I spent most of my time conforming my thoughts, actions and aspirations to the world around me.  Including what my parents thought of me, what my friends thought of me, what my girlfriends thought of me, etc…  I had absolutely positively no idea that the God of the universe had already given me an identity.  Furthermore, I had no idea that most of the challenges that faced my life were designed to guide me into that very identity.  If you are a Christian and you do not know your God given identity, be encouraged.  Your Father in heaven only wants one thing from you in order to reveal your eternal identity to you.  That one thing is your agreement to dismantle who you’ve become so that He can reveal your eternal identity to you.

Before I share any more about my experience, let’s take a look at some passages of scripture as our foundation.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Okay, let’s unpack a few truths about the passages of scripture above:

  1. The Lord told Jeremiah that before He formed Jeremiah in the womb, He knew…or was intimate with Jeremiah.  The word knew in the Hebrew has a complex meaning, but we’ll keep it simple.  Basically it means that since God created Jeremiah, He was intimately familiar with Jeremiah and had already designed an eternal purpose for Jeremiah’s life.  This is remarkable if you think about it.  Think with me for a second, from pre-school through college, most of us were on a quest to discover what we should be doing (you remember…Johnny, what do you want to be when you grow up?).  Rarely have we ever seen someone say, hey, let’s find out what God has purposed for my life before I was born.  Also consider this, at the moment God spoke these words to Jeremiah, He was actually serving God as a priest, not a prophet.  Due to the requirements God demanded of the priests, it’s crystal clear that Jeremiah was serving as a priest because he was born into the tribe of Levi.  This has manifold meanings embedded in it. One of them being the fact that God always makes use of our past experiences to reveal our eternal identities.  However, it’s also important to note that according to scripture, Jeremiah had no clue he was called to be a prophet unto God Himself.  This should give you and I comfort.  You may not know exactly what your eternal identity is at this moment, but this passage of scripture makes it clear that it’s never to late.
  2. The Lord told Jeremiah, before he was born, God designated him for a specific purpose.  This lines up with the definition of the word knew above.  I ask you to consider this for a moment.  The first verse in the book of Jeremiah tells us that Jeremiah was operating as a priest in a fixed region and not a prophet to multiple nations.  However, when the Lord decides to reveal Jeremiah’s eternal identity to him, God says I created you to be and have already set you apart as a prophet to multiple nations.  Based on your agreement, when the Lord chooses to reveal your eternal identity to you, most likely, it will look foreign to you and to those around you.  Remember my comment about the first 27 years of my life?
  3. Okay, now for the second verse.  This passage clearly says that if you are born again, your rebirth in Jesus Christ marks the starting point of a specific set of works designated just for you.  The passage goes on further to say that the works, designated for you alone, were prepared in advance long before you discovered who you were.  Hmmmmmm, if you consider this passage, this sheds a great deal of light on all of Paul’s verses in scripture where he proclaims that we are all different members of the same Body of Christ.

Okay, after looking into the passages above, I hope you’re convinced that God created you and I for a specific work in the earth.  Now I would like to share some of my experiences with you.  I hope that what I share provokes you to a renewed hunger and thirst to discover what God has already planned for you in the earth.

Meet Dwight the Disc Jockey or DJ for short

I can remember standing in my mothers living room singing every word, dance steps included, to the ABC song by Michael Jackson.  ABC…it’s easy as 123…as simple as…do re mi – you get the point.  From a  very early age, I have always loved all forms of music.  Partially because both my mom and dad were avid music buffs, I also attribute it to the era in which I grew up.

By the age of 17, I was known everywhere as one of the hottest DJ’s around.  I mean I mixed house tapes, I hosted steppers parties, basement parties and everything in between.  For ten years, music in one form or another, was an extremely integral part of my identity.

I remember my mothers first car.  It was a 79 Chevy Impala.  For those of you who don’t know what a Chevy Impala is, nor how big it was, think about this.  It was a four door car with bench seats in the front and back.  No such things as bucket seats in the Chevy Impala.  This car could, and often did, fit ten of my friends easily.  I was so into music that I actually chopped up the car stereo in my mom’s car so that I could patch real house stereo speakers up to the car stereo.  When my friends and I went out to party we would take the home stereo speakers out of the back window dash and the truck and put them on the top of the car to listen to my latest mixed tape prior to entering the party.  To say my friends and I loved music would be an understatement.

It’s 1993, and I get involved with a man from Jamaica that owns a professional concert grade sound system.  He asks me to DJ Jamaican Reggae Dancehall music.  Now, at that time I had only dealt with American music and a little Bob Marley.  I had no idea what Reggae Dancehall music was, let alone how to be efficient at DJ’ing the genre.  I was also woefully unaware of the dark power behind most reggae music.  Well, I plunged in anyway, remember, I have no idea who I am so anything fits at this time of my life.  This marked the beginning of the end of my DJ identity, as I knew it.

For three years I ran the most successful Reggae Dancehall party on the South Side of Chicago at the Union Hall on 93rd and Commercial and the Glass House lounge on 79th and Halsted.  My Jamaican DJ name was Terror D and the sound system was called Bel Jam.  I had famous artists making records with my stage name replacing the hottest tune (these are called dub plates in Reggae Dancehall music).  For those of you who don’t know, with respect to Dancehall, the DJ is the person who talks on the mic and the Selecta is the person that actually chooses the combination of records to play.  Well, I was so good at this part of my identity that I did them both in each set/party.  The party would start at 1:00 am in the morning and end around 5:00 am.  For three years I did this on Sunday night, and went straight to my day job on Monday morning after packing up the sound system.

Meet God’s Vessel

While I was DJ’ing reggae, I worked in a convenience store in the condo complex where I lived.  The store was owned by some Brazilian brothers, and I started as the stock boy and made my way up to cashier.  As is usually the case, I was paid cash on a weekly basis; $200.

A lady that knew my dad and who constantly frequented the store, repeatedly made attempts to get me to apply for a temporary position at the Temp Agency where she worked.  She would come into the store, approach the check out counter, look at me and say, Tony you really need to apply for this job.  It’s crazy when I think about it now, but at the time my mindset was, you’re asking me to take a temporary job that may last 6 months and I already have a steady job.  I know someone reading this is saying, you idiot, at $5 an hour you don’t have a job, a joke is more like it.  Well, that’s how I felt and it caused me to reject her offer at least 10 times in a row.  Well, on the 11th occasion, not exactly sure why I was putting my cushy secure job on the line, I decided to accept her offer.

So in January of 1996 I started a 6 month temporary assignment at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois as a data entry operator.  Now this is going to sound ridiculous, but never the less, it’s 100% true with God as my witness.  The first day on this temporary assignment all of the temps were to be trained on how to data enter applications into a computer system.  At this point in my life, I knew absolutely nothing about computers.  I remember having to ask my sister, who’s an electrical engineer, to turn her personal computer on so I could play games.  At any rate, we’re all in this training and the instructor says, now everyone see their mouse?  At that moment I started looking around on the floor for what I thought would surely be a vermin about to meet it’s maker.  The guy next to me looked at me in total disgust.  He then brought to my attention the fact that the instructor wasn’t referring to a furry pest but a device attached to the computer.  I told you I knew absolutely nothing about computers at this point.  My sister’s computer only had a CPU, a screen and a keyboard; it was a x386 for those of you who know what that means.  It only had a black and white screen with a keyboard, no mouse needed.

While on this temporary assignment, I worked 9 to 5 at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, then I worked weekends from 8 to 7 at the convenience store.  Then, of course, on Sundays I had my slamming reggae dancehall party.

The most phenomenal part of this true story is what I found out well after I started the job at Blue Cross.  My mom informed me that for years she prayed and asked God to move me from the south side of Chicago to give me a job downtown.  She prayed this prayer so that I would have an opportunity to witness for myself a different vision of what was possible for my life.  Turns out God Himself was working in my life in each of these situations and circumstances, prior to my salvation, to position me in a place where he could answer my mothers prayers and finally begin to reveal to me who I was created to be.  In July of 1996, I was hired as a full time Blue Cross employee and have worked there 17 years.

The Crash of Terror D

The older gentleman who owned the sound system was a 60 something year old Jamaican who smoked way to much weed.  Well, on this particular Sunday, which I thought would flow like any other Sunday, the owner had a surprise for me.  He had flown a new Jamaican DJ in straight from Jamaica to battle against me.  SURPRISE!!! Yeah, that’s what I said.

Evidently, the owner didn’t like one of my dub plates.  This requires a little explaining.  A Dub Plate is a record of a popular reggae song where the original artist re-writes the song using the name of the DJ in the song as opposed to the original lyrics.  My first two Dub Plates cost me $600 bucks each; yeah it was expensive.  In Dancehall music, there is something known as the clash of Sound Systems.  It’s basically a contest to see who has the hottest dub plates and who can select the best tunes to put the competition to shame using a combination of the lyrics in the song and the taunts of the DJ.  During these clashes, particular Dancehall tunes or songs are played to send messages through the music to the competition.  There are actually demonic spirits that control the entire scene and the people in the environment, but that’s for another article.  One particular way of doing this is to either have a dub plate from a very successful artist or have a dub plate that basically calls the competition a bunch of derogatory names.

Well, I had a dub plate I was planning to use for the competition.  A week before all of this happened, I decided to play my dub plate at the Glass House lounge, prior to the party really becoming jam packed.  Why did I do that?  Since Jamaicans take their music very seriously, even though I played the dub plate just to hear what it sounded like, the owner took my foolish display as a challenge to him directly.  Now Dwight, doesn’t this weed smoking senior citizen know you work for him.  It makes no sense for you to clash against your own sound system.  Hey, you’re preaching to the choir, those were my thoughts exactly.

Anyway, that night he pulled a knife on me and told me he would kill me if I ever did that again.  You would think, after years of a successful venture, this guy would be wiser.  Well he wasn’t, and it was God shutting the door to that particular identity I worked hard to create.  Remember, in order to discover your eternal identity, you need to agree when God tears down the identities you’ve either built or allowed to be built in you.

I shared that story for one reason and one reason only, if Don had not pulled that knife on me that night, I probably would still be DJ’ing danchall music to this day.  Why?  I was the most popular reggae dancehall selecta/DJ in Chicago at the time.  This reality came with a boatload of fringe benefits.  Fame, women, money, women, prestige, women…you get my point.  However, Don was sort of like Pharaoh in that he really had no idea what was really happening when he pulled that knife on me.  Actually God simply used Don the same way He used Pharaoh to, in no uncertain terms, thrust me into His eternal plan for my life.

One month after the crazy weed smoking senior citizen pulled a switch-blade on me, on October 31, 1996, I had a Romans Road experience and met the Lord Jesus Christ personally.  In January of 1997 I became a member of the Church I now attend.

Severing the Cords That Bind

So, there’s no more reggae dancehall parties, I’m still working two jobs and now I’ve been introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ and have been filled with the Holy Spirit.  A few weeks later, the next tearing down session begins.

One day, during prayer, the Lord speaks to me and says, “I want you to throw all of this music into the trash.  You are not to give it to anyone or sell it to anyone.”  Huh?  Exactly, that’s what I said to the Lord.  My thinking was, I spent more than ten years collecting this music and my mixed tapes from the reggae parties are still selling.  Well, the Lord wanted none of that reasoning.  So I contemplated the issue for maybe an hour, then I agreed to do as He commanded.

Now, in order to really understand this scene, you need a few facts.  First, because I worked in the convenience store in the building, everyone from the building and the neighborhood knew me as the guy with all of the music.  Second, since my music collection was so vast, I had collector albums that cost me upwards of $500 bucks an album.  I had close to $20,000 dollars work of music in my studio apartment, we won’t discuss the warped priorities.  So, I wasn’t a happy camper.  Finally, I had a group of DJ friends in the building and the neighborhood that would have loved to get their hands on my collection.

So one day, on my way home from work, I finally decided to do it.  I went into the store and asked to borrow the two wheeler.  I went up to my apartment and began to load the two wheeler with records, four creates at a time.  I then took the freight elevator to the loading dock, which is where everyone from the neighborhood entered to go to the store.  My thought was, I better get this over quickly so I don’t run into anyone and have to explain my bizarre behavior.  Wouldn’t you know it, no one but the Lord Himself made sure I would run into the very people I tried to avoid.  On the first trip, the owners of the store saw me and asked was I moving.  My answer was no, Jesus told me to throw all of this music into the trash.  Well, you can imagine the looks on their faces.

So I make the second trip and wouldn’t you know it, one of my DJ friends who lives in a different condo complex just happens to be walking by.  Hey Dwight, wha’chu doin man?  Bless you Joe, Jesus told me to throw all of this music into the trash.  Dwight, man you can give me this music.  No Joe, Jesus specifically told me not to give it to anyone or sell it to anyone.  Dwight, you can sell this music to Dr Wax in Hyde Park and make a boat load of money.  I can’t Joe.  Dwight, are you sure Jesus told you to do this?  Yeah Joe, I’m sure.  Okay man, see ya later.  Bless you Joe.  The other people that saw me, in what appeared to be an irrational state due to my pronounced love for music, just shook their heads but refrained from speaking.  Well, I finally got the last batch of CDs into the trash and I tell you the truth; I felt sick to my stomach.  Years of building my collection and it’s all gone in one day.

Today here’s what I can share with you that may help shed light on the Lord’s strong directive.  The music I spent so much of my life blood collecting had become a kingdom of unrighteousness in my heart.  I, of course, was the king of this music kingdom and Jesus never tolerates anyone sitting on the throne of our hearts but Himself.  Anything that the Lord requests that we give up, must be given up.  If not, that very thing will be the thing that keeps us separated from an intimate relationship with the Lord.  This intimate relationship is necessary for the Lord to reveal our eternal identity to us and then go on to empower us to live out that identity.  Finally, I discovered that there are cords and ropes in the spirit realm that keep people bound to ungodly habits.  These ropes and cords are put in place by demonic forces and tightened whenever we resist letting something go that the Lord requires us to let go of.  Don’t believe these cords and ropes in the spiritual realm exist, read the passage of scripture below.

Woe to those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes  Isaiah 5:18 (NIV)

Say Hello to My Eternal Identity

So, it’s January 1997.  I’m no longer a DJ, primarily cause it’s darn hard to be a DJ with no music!  The credit union at my job is offering a deal on new computers for those who work for the company with good credit.  They’ll give you a check to purchase the computer at the store of your choice, and you can pay it back in small monthly payments with a low interest rate.  I think to myself, boy it would be really nice to have a computer at home.  Then I think, with your well overdue and unpaid school loans, you probably owe FICO some points; your credit score is so low.  However, I complete the application full of blind faith in God that they’ll allow me to participate in the program.  Can you guess what happened?  You know it, by God’s grace, despite my laughable credit, they gave me a check for more than $4,000.00 bucks.  Oh yeah, in 1997 computers were ridiculously expensive.

I remember the day as though it were yesterday.  I’m on the Bishop Ford freeway in Chicago on my way to Best Buy in Calumet City in my two door Toyota Celica.  I got to Best Buy full of confidence.  There’s nothing like going into a place with a check in hand for what you want to purchase.  I felt like Donald Trump buying my next business.  I enter the store, peacock feathers spread wide, and ask for the manager.  Dwight, why did you need a manager?  Well, I told you my peacock feathers were spread wide, so I figure a person with more than $4000.00 in hand deserved special treatment.  Basically, I was full of pride forgetting that God performed a miracle to give me this opportunity.  Well, here’s what I can tell you.  In light of the fact that the Lord graced me with the opportunity to have this computer, despite my horrible stewardship example, He was not pleased with my attitude.  So to teach me a valuable lesson, which had an impact because I’m sharing it more than a decade later, I sat in that Best Buy for more than two hours, check in hand, waiting to purchase this computer.  Turns out, had I simply picked out the computer, like any normal customer, I could have been out in 30 minutes.  So much for the peacock feather spread, it’s for the birds.

Well, I finally completed the purchase, smooshed the huge boxes into my sardine can of a car and made my way through the snow back to my apartment.  As I stand before the cloud of witnesses in heaven, this is what the Lord said to me as I sat in front of my brand new black Sony computer.

I will teach you about computers.  This gift is to be used for the vision of this houseDo not charge this Church for anything you do.  They will not trust you in the beginning, this is a wounded house. Do Not attempt to make sweeping changes, just keep working what is in place.  In due time I will give you a voice, and you will be able to implement what I’ve shown you.

Okay, so in my mind I’m thinking, this computer thing you did was a setup huh?  No later than a week after hearing these instructions from the Lord, the next directive came in the form of a question.  As I sat in the visitors section listening to a sermon in the Church the Lord referred to above, I entered into an open vision.  In the vision, the leader of the church was sitting on the steps of the altar and I am kneeling at his feet.  I’m kneeling because I’m meticulously cleaning his feet with my hands.  I mean REALLY getting in and between there.  While watching this scene, the Lord speaks again in the form of a question:

“Will you submit to the vision of this house?”

Now, you need to know that I’m a bit on the silly side, so showing me a vision of myself cleaning the feet of another man is definitely one way to get my attention.  So, as I sat there pondering the question, I think back over the last few months of my life and what has transpired.  In the face of all of that, my only answer was yes.  Boy, I had no idea what that meant, but I guess in retrospect, I was willing to trust the Lord with what He asked me to do.  I want to remind you again of the one thing required for Jesus to reveal your eternal destiny to you.  You MUST be WILLING to allow Him to tear down EVERY identity you’ve built or you allowed to be built so that the Lord can then reestablish who you were ordained to be before the foundation of the world.

Well, after the open vision, literally everyday in my apartment, I would sit at the computer, no manuals, no training, nothing and the Holy Spirit would teach me everything about computers.  I mean I learned everything from building web sites from scratch to assembling entire computers.  As a matter of fact, one of the very first computers I assembled was still in operation 16 years later.  I know the fact that I said the Holy Spirit Himself taught me about computers concerns some of you, so I recommend reading the following passages to familiarize yourself with the workings of the Holy Spirit.  I have never known Jesus or the Holy Spirit to ever say something to me that is contrary to the Word of God.  I may not have been aware of the following passages at the time the Lord spoke to me, but eventually the Holy Spirit confirmed exactly what I heard the Lord say using the passages of scripture below.

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3 (KJV)

And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall bethe peace of thy children. Isaiah 54:13 (KJV)

O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Psalms 71:17 (KJV)

It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. John 6:45 (NIV)

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, And in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. Ex 31:1-5 (KJV)

A Modern Day Bezaleel

There isn’t enough time in the day for me to share with you all of the things God has done in my life following these defining moments.  Here’s what I will say.  I thank God for His mercy that has been richly given to me despite my frequent opposition due to a lack of knowledge and understanding.  I have found that if in your heart you desire to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, He will look past your lack of understanding and cause you to be awakened to your eternal destiny.

The last passage above is exactly what God has consistently done in my life since the day of that open vision.  As a matter of fact, after being faithful to the assignment given to me by the Lord, He not only equipped me to work with computers, but He also began to reveal the inner workings of His Kingdom in ways I have never heard preached or taught.  What God has done has far exceeded my wildest imagination and today I can say that unless you discover your eternal identity in God, you will never be truly content or satisfied.

I recommend a short prayer to you…

Father Ephesians 2:10 says there are works that were ordained for me to complete.  I ask you to have mercy on me for every identity I’ve created or allowed myself to be molded into.  Please forgive me and reveal my eternal destiny to me, in Jesus name I pray.