Who I am in Christ — or Whose?

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There is a trend in Christianity that both excites me and makes me wary. “Discipleship” is the command of our Lord and Savior: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Discipleship is Jesus’ marching orders for the church. But what are we to teach? Everything He commanded. Everything He taught. Everything He did. But above all, everything He is. The focus of all our teaching and discipleship should always be centered on Christ.

And that’s why I have had a wariness in my spirit. For the past several years the content of our discipleship, especially to women has taken a spiritually unhealthy turn.  This morning I was reading in Colossians, where Paul said: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved . . .” (3:12) and immediately my mind went to the manta of women’s Bible studies: “Who I am in Christ.” Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I am all for us claiming our identity as sons and daughters of God. As one who grew up rejected by both sides of the kickball teams, it is a great comfort to know that I am chosen in Christ. Because my former husband said, “I don’t love you anymore,” it is a balm to my heart to know that I am dearly loved by God. But the focus has turned in recent years from awe at what God has done for a wretch like me, to how God has elevated me, to it’s all about me. It reminds me of an advertisement I heard once for a “Christian” talent agency whose tagline was “Become famous for God!” No! No! No! We make God famous, not ourselves.

All the verses that we claim as our identity labels, when taken in their full context, are teaching us who we are so that we can then walk appropriately. The rest of Colossians 3:12 says “clothes yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Paul goes on to talk about forbearance (patience) and forgiveness and the unity that comes with love. He said, “because you are this, your character should be this.” The Scriptures never tell us “who we are” to boost our ego but to humble us in our relationships with one another and with Christ. When we pick out select words to focus on ourselves, we miss the point entirely.

Beloved, I encourage you to learn what the Bible says about you because above all else, you are God’s image-bearer. Now act like it.

This is Me

Since it’s my birthday, I thought I would share some of my favorite verses with you and why they are special to me.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the account of Dorcas in Acts 9 – for obvious reasons, but also because we both loved to sew. But I love it more because Dorcas, by her life and death and return to life, was an evangelist without even saying a word. The Scripture said that because of her and the work of the Lord in her, her story “became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (Acts 9:42). That’s what I want my life to be about. She has been my life-long inspiration.

I find myself returning again and again to another verse that gave me hope through many years of infertility and through many more years of struggling as a parent: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true at last there is life and Joy” (Proverbs 13:12). My hope was and is in God and His ability to “call things that are not as though there were” (Romans 4:17).

God used three verses to call me into this teaching and writing ministry: Isaiah 51:16 – “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand.” and Jeremiah 15:19 – “If you utter worthy not worthless words, you will be my spokesman.” From these two verses, He began to refine my words and their content. Then I came across Ezra, of whom the Scripture said, “The gracious hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees in Israel” (Ezra 7:9,10). God called me to study His Word, live His Word, and teach His Word. He sent me to seminary with Jeremiah 1:17: “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you.”

Finally, my life verse: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:13,14). I have been on an almost life-long mission to seek God, and He has shown Himself over and over in my life. It is a mission I will continue to my last breath. So this is who I am as I’ve been and continue to be shaped by the Word of God. Thank you, Beloved for your love and encouragement in this ministry. You are a blessing to me

Hello, My Name is . . .

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The kid looked up at the preacher after the service, “God knows you by name? Dude, what did you do?”  The message from Exodus 3 was about obedience, but the point that stuck out to the boy was that God called Moses by name out of the bush (v. 4). The preacher said, “God called me by name too when He saved me and told me to preach.” “What do you  mean, ‘What did I do?’” the preacher asked. The boy replied, “All the teachers in my school know my name cause I’m always in trouble. If God knows your name, you must have done something really bad!”

God knows my name and your name too, but not because of anything we have done, good or bad. It is because of His great love. One of the most precious verses to me is Isaiah 43:1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name . . .” My name was a point of ridicule and embarrassment when I was growing up: Dorcas Beegle. I heard “Dorky, Dorcas the beagle dog!” accompanied by barking and howling every day. That’s why most of you know me as Beth, from my middle name, Elizabeth. Even that was not safe as my brothers called me “Dorcas the Lizard.”

But God doesn’t call me Beth or Dorcas or any of those. One morning I came across Revelation 2:17: “To  him who overcomes, I will give . . . a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” “Lord,” I said, “I wish I could know what my new name is, cause I hate this one.” Later as I was reading a devotional in Mark 5, I read verse 34, “[Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” I heard in my heart, “That’s your name. You are Daughter.” If I were free to elaborate on my past, you would understand why that brought me to tears.

The last part of Isaiah 43:1 expresses why God knows you and me by name. He said, “You are mine.” Beloved, if you are in Christ, you are God’s. He has a special name for you that speaks of how much He loves you.  I pray that means as much to you as it does to me.

My name from God is Daughter because I am His.

Who God Made Me to Be

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“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

“Lord, I wish You had given me a beautiful voice. I would love to sing like her.”  “God why do I have to be so short?”  “If only I had so-and-so’s creative talents, I could make so many pretty things.”

I know you’ve said something similar and so have I.  We look at others who sing or play or create or have some other seeming advantage over us and wonder why we are the way we are.  Too short. Too tall.  Shy.  A little rough around the edges.  I want to be someone else – someone better.  But I’m just plain ole’ me.

I thought that way once too.  I’m rather loud and, as a former boss once said, “she doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-expression.” I was a chatterbox when I was a little girl and that never changed.  I was often told, “You need to talk less and listen more.”  But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t change.   Oh how I longed to be like those quiet, dignified ladies who always spoke with an “inside” voice.  They didn’t burst out with laughter.  They listened patiently to others.  They didn’t always have to express their thoughts and opinions.  They were everything I was not.

A while back I had the opportunity to attend a nationally-known Christian women’s conference.  I wasn’t planning to go.  It had been a very difficult year for my family and I just didn’t have the money for such a luxury, but my dear friends pitched in and provided for my ticket, hotel and meals, plus a little spending money too.  It was an unexpected blessing.  We had snagged seats on the floor in the very front row, nothing between us and the stage but a few feet of open space.  I sat near the end of the row and had a bird’s eye view of the platform where the other speakers sat waiting their turn and listening to the person on stage.  I had a blast.  The speakers were both profoundly spiritual and hysterically funny.  I listened and I laughed.  No, I howled.  I roared with laughter.  I nearly fell in the floor a few times with my sides splitting.  I so needed this event; it fed my spirit and released a lot of tension.

Before the final speaker we all took a break (picture 14,000 women running to the bathrooms!).  I stood in the line beside a new friend I’d seen at church, but never took the time to get to know.  We shared the hotel room with two other women that weekend and we just clicked.  As we waited I told her, “I’m so glad to get to spend this time with you.  I’ve always admired your quiet, gentle spirit and I hope some of it has rubbed off on me.” She turned to me with a puzzled look and said, “I’ve always admired your bold, fun spirit, and I was hoping the same thing for me.”  We laughed and hugged, finished our business and went back to our seats.

As I was putting my purse back under my seat, I felt a hand touch my back. I stood up and turned to face the president and emcee of the conference.  She told me, “I just wanted you to know how much the speakers have enjoyed watching you having such a good time this weekend.  It really blesses them to see you respond to what they are saying.”  I thanked her and shared with her that this weekend had been a gift from my friends and she said, “Clearly God had a reason for you to be here, if nothing else to be a blessing to our team of speakers.”

I sat down in stunned silence – one of the few times I’ve ever been that quiet.  As I thought about what she said and the conversation with my friend during the break, I heard that “still, small voice” speak to my heart.  “Child, don’t you realize – your mouth and personality are not a character flaw. It’s how I made you. I gave you that big mouth because I intend to use it.  You’re going to be my voice in the world.”

Precious friend, it’s time to stop looking at who you aren’t and focus on who God created you to be.  Maybe you don’t have a soaring soprano voice, but no one can build a better stage than you.  Your gift is important in the Kingdom of God.   Perhaps you stumble and stammer as a public speaker, but you are able to build one-on-one relationships that lead to changed lives.  I have a friend who is quite short and is able to relate well with children because she can literally get down on their level.  If you wish you could create something beautiful but you keep hot-gluing your fingers together, don’t fret.  God has created you for a special purpose that is unique and specific.  Paul says that you are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do” (Ephesians 2:10).  It’s an important work and something only you can fulfill.

You are exactly who you are because God created you with a unique plan and a specific purpose in mind –be thankful that you are one-of-a-kind and let your light shine for the Lord.

Holy Father, I’ll never forget Your words to me that day.  I am who I am because You made me this way, to do Your good work.  My voice, my hands, my feet, my smile, my gifts and talents – it’s all Yours.  Use me Lord.  Amen.

(If you want to learn more about your unique spirit gifts, I recommend https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/analysis/index.php as a good spiritual gifts inventory resource.)