Identify!

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There are times when we don’t quite believe who God says we are. But that never changes who we are or the plans He has for us.

There are even times when we put a lot of energy into making excuses and explaining to God why we aren’t who He says we are. But that doesn’t change anything either.

Case in point: Exodus chapter 3.

A man named Moses finds himself in a conversation with God, who informs him that he, Moses, will be the one to go bring the Israelites out of Egypt. He is going to be the voice that frees six hundred thousand men and their families from slavery.

Moses’ response?

  • “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh…” (3:11)
  • “[But] If I come to the people of Israel …and they ask me ‘who sent you?’ what do I say then?” (3: 13, paraphrased)
  • “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice…” (4:1)
  • “I have never been eloquent…I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (4:10)
  • “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” (4:13)

With each comment, God continues to explain how He has chosen Moses, how He will influence the Israelites to listen to Moses, how He will enable Moses to handle whatever is ahead, how He will display His power through Moses, how He defines who Moses is and He has decided Moses is the man for the job.

But Moses responds with more excuses. Moses simply refused to buy it. He was sure he was a nobody, and that the best place for him was right where he was, in obscurity taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep.

So finally, in 4:14-16 God essentially says “Fine. Your brother Aaron will go with you and he’ll do the talking. Does that make you happy?” (My personal interpretation, of course…I’m pretty sure none of that was in the original Hebrew text.)

But here’s the rub  – pay close attention now – because if you read through the next 9 chapters of Exodus, in all the interactions that took place with Pharaoh, not once do you read “And Aaron said unto Pharaoh…

The only place we see Aaron taking the lead is when they first talk to the Israelites (4:30). From there on out, Moses is the point man.

To me, this is significant, because it is one of the starkest examples in scripture of what Bob Perdue and others refer to as the concept of the true self.  It says “You are who God says you are, not necessarily who you think you are.”

As much as we try to hedge and detour and deflect and make excuses, God knows who we really are. He knows because He defines who we really are.

Our maneuvering, our excuses, our doubts, what we think we’re capable of or not capable of – none of that trumps what God planned from the beginning of time.

Our mistakes, our past, our faults or failures – none of that disqualifies us from what God planned from the beginning of time.

The Creator of the universe, designated you for a purpose and then designed you to meet that purpose.

Trust Him, you’ll find that the person he designed you to be is exactly what brings deep fulfillment, more so than your highest personal aspirations. (I’m pretty sure that in the end Moses knew that what he accomplished was a whole lot more fulfilling than another 40 years of tending sheep).

So stop making excuses and believe who God says you are.

He knows what He’s talking about.

 

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Use and Care Instructions – When Not to Follow the Label

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Labels are damaging. Labels are self-fulfilling. Labels are a tool of the Enemy. Labels undermine us at our very core. All this is true, insightful, compelling…and completely useless, unless you know what to do about the labels.

What are we to do with the labels? Merely knowing they exist does nothing to pry us from their grip. Action is required for freedom to be attained.

First, we need to identify them. You have to have something concrete at which to take aim. And the best way to identify labels? Simple….listen.

When you make a mistake, what is the first thing you hear from yourself?

What thought goes through your mind? Often that knee-jerk initial thought is something that goes by without much notice, so stop and pay close attention.

What do you hear yourself saying outwardly? Self-deprecating humor usually holds more truth than humor. Muttering “I’m sorry, I’m such a dummy. ha ha ha” can usually be simplified down to “I’m a dummy”. Look at it for what it is.

Self-talk is where your labels become most evident, but you have to be listening. Because it can be hard to recognize. But just because we don’t recognize it, that doesn’t mean it has no effect on us. It has a deep effect on how we think, act, make decisions, and relate.

Second, once we identify the labels, we replace those labels with truth. Who does Jesus say that you are? Does God say I’m a dummy? No, He says “that in every thing [I am] enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge” (1 Cor 1:5).

This is a simple example. Our labels are usually much more complex. But complexity doesn’t change the face of them.

Here’s a suggestion:

Carry a small notebook with you through the day. When you recognize a label, write it down on the top of a page. You don’t have to do anything with it on the spot, just write it down, and leave a few pages blank for later.

Then, when you have time, try to write down what caused you to think that way. What thought processes helped form that label? What assumptions did you make? Writing these things down helps you to think through the underlying patterns that form the label, and in many cases those underlying thoughts, assumptions and patterns will look much different on paper than they sounded in your head.

Now turn the page and write down what the truth is. Write down anything that comes to you about the things you just wrote on the previous page. If an assumption looks silly now that it’s on paper, write that down. If a thought process that seemed rock solid in your mind dissipates into mist on paper, make note of it. Pray and listen to what God has to say about the label. If scripture passages come to mind, write those down. This is essentially a brain-dump. Write freely. No one has to see this but you, so write what comes up.

In time, you can go back and look at these exercises, and focus on the truth pages. Replacing inaccurate labels is a matter of practice.

This is one suggestion, something else may work better for you.

But regardless, when it comes to labels, we need to put the status quo behind us. Don’t keep plodding through life letting negative labels define you. You’re better than those things. I know you are. God says so!

The Labelmaker

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Loser. Bad Parent. Addict. Cheater. Drunk. Pervert. Stupid. Incapable. Poser.

We are good at labels. We can generate a vast array of them. From mundane to outright cruel (how cruel? Ponder this: some of the labels we create for ourselves are labels we would never think of attaching to others…am I right?).

And we wear these labels everywhere we go.

Oh, we certainly don’t wear them on the outside. Truth is, we often don’t even recognize them on the inside. Most of us have layers upon layers of labels, constructed in such a way as to hide them from even ourselves. Our clever inner voices create one label, and then create another one to throw ourselves off of the scent of the first one. Then we need another label to cover for the second. And a fourth to compensate for the third, which is covering for the second, which you’ll recall is a red herring defense mechanism against the first.

Wow, that is exhausting just writing it down. But that’s how our psyche’s work. So we find ourselves carrying labels nested so deeply we can’t even see the bottom. Some of them we recognize, and maybe do something about, but more likely dismiss as commonplace or unchangeable. Some of them we don’t see at all. But all of them affect how we relate, interact, and live our lives.

And all the while, we are carefully covering the whole lot of them so no one on the outside can see what we think about ourselves on the inside. Because if they saw that, it would be game over.

Serious business, these things called labels. Label-making is the Enemy’s favorite endeavor, I think. It’s the most effective one, because he can get us at the very core of our being and undermine everything we do.

But the labels we carry are often exaggerations, if not outright lies. They are our views of self, and often deep down we are much harder on ourselves than we should be. We should expect a lot of ourselves, but there is a difference between expecting much of ourselves and being overly harsh on ourselves.

  • We should expect to present ourselves well in a meeting, but that doesn’t mean we should kick ourselves for every verbal slip-up we make.
  • We should always put our best foot forward in everything we do, but that doesn’t mean we dismiss ourselves as failures when we realize we could have done or said something differently.
  • We should expect a life of purity from ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we should condemn ourselves for every errant thought that slips in (remember temptation does not equal transgression).

The other danger of labels is they are self-fulfilling prophecies. Remember the Temptation Does Not Equal Transgression blog post? When you allow the thing that tempts you to become that which defines you, you’re on the road to living a life of enslavement and defeat.

So, be careful of labels. Take the time to stop and identify them when they bubble up. And don’t allow them to get – or keep – a foothold. Freedom from labels is within your grasp.