WE ARE HEIRS

By Leigh Swanson

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ..." Romans 8:15-16

When I met Shelly, we were in fifth grade. Se was the new girl at Hyer Elementary. She had long blonde hair with bangs cut straight across her forehead. I was assigned by our teacher to be Shelly's "special friend" for her first day. My responsibilities included walking with her to class and sitting with her at lunch. She quickly became my best friend. Through middle school, high school, and college, we were together.

Shelly was also the first person I knew who had been adopted. Born to an unwed teenager, Shelly had been adopted as an infant. Her new parents, Bob and Janice had a biological son; but due to Janice's small stature, they had been advised to grow their family through adoption. On April 25, 1965, Bob and Janice were driving home to Texas from a California vacation. In the car, Janice started having what she could only describe as labor pains. These pains lasted for hours. Bob was concerned, finding it odd that she continued to describe what she was feeling as labor pains. Days later, when they arrived home in Dallas, they learned that their daughter had been born the same day Janice had experienced the labor pains! I remember vividly Janice sharing Shelly's adoption story with me. She told it with such joy, amazed at God's goodness and the miraculous sign he had given them that Shelly was their daughter. 

When I think of great adoption stories, I think of Shelly's. However, there is a greater story of adoption. It's the adoption story of every person who professes Christ as Lord and Savior. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you have an adoption story, too.

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To read the full chapter in which Leigh Swanson expounds on the concept of adoption in Christ and the believer's new status as an heir, purchase your copy of BECOMING, Volume One

WE ARE LOVED

BY RUTHIE DELK

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zephaniah 3:17

Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I can sing it. I can say it. But do I believe it? I mean really believe it-- in a way that matters. In a way that impacts how I live my life. 

This is a hard question. One moment, I can answer emphatically, "Yes!" And in the next moment my behavior might reveal otherwise. Often how we think, feel, and act is a dead give away to what we really believe about God. 

Recently, I heard a counselor say that the core question that we are all desperately trying to answer is, "Am I loved?" The irony here is that we are pursuing an answer to a question that has already been answered. The scars in Jesus' hands and feet prove the depth of His love for us. The problem is that we don't believe it. Unbelief shows up in our lives when we:

assume others think the worst about us.

beat ourselves up over our sin.

hesitate to come to Him with our problems or pain. 

have to get our act together before we are useful.

criticize others.

feel like our good works make Him love us more. 

feel like our failures make Him love us less.

assume that tragedy and suffering are punishment and rejection. 

say "Yes" to every request-- "because they need me."

assume He really doesn't want what is best for us.

constantly compare ourselves to others.

make great demands on family and friends to meet our emotional needs.

get paralyzed by insecurities which keep us from taking risks.

feel like a failure for all the things we have not accomplished today.

realize the thought of letting Him love us makes us squirm. 

are embarrassed by our kid's failures and take credit for their successes. 

This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly gives us a peek into our hearts to see the ways in which our unbelief in God's love creeps into every area of our lives.

Why is it so hard to believe that we are loved? I have asked this question hundreds of times to women all over, and the answers are always the same: most say that either they don't feel lovable or their experiences have proved that God does not love them.

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To continue reading and see how Ruthie Delk uses scripture to prove how we are loved, purchase your copy of BECOMING, Vol. 1: IDENTITY.

WE ARE GOD'S WORKMANSHIP

BY JUDY DOUGLASS

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10

The artist worked slowly, meticulously, lovingly. He knew this would be a masterpiece. Every stroke was intentional, every curve purposeful, ever color enhancing.

Then came the unveiling day! The final birth pangs were challenging, but so worth it. As she appeared and his eyes beheld her, he almost fell back, breathless. She was lovely, astonishing, perfect. Just exactly as he had envisioned. 

A work of art!

Which is exactly how God sees us.

The psalmist gives us a glimpse of the amazing process of God designing each of us:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13-16

The apostle Paul reveals the outcome: "We are God's handiwork {workmanship, work of art, masterpiece}" (Ephesians 2:10a).

When you were being formed inside your mother, God Himself was there, designing you, forming you according to His perfect plan. He created your shape, your personality, your features, your temperament. He instilled gifts and abilities in you, infused you with aptitudes and attitudes.

The same for me. Personally, I've had some conversations with Him about how He made me. I've suggested that two more inches of height would have been so easy for Him and so helpful for me. I could reach higher shelves, and my feet would touch the floor in most chairs. And I would really appreciate if I had just a little musical ability--an ear, a voice, some rhythm. But no--none, nada.

He did give me some great gifts--a strong will, a heart to encourage and exhort, courage to speak up. He gave me words--to speak and write. 

And God was pleased. He was so pleased that, when I was born, He said, "Look at her! She's exactly what I had in mind! She's a work of art, a masterpiece."

That's also what He said about you. With all the abilities and tendencies and strengths and weaknesses He wove into your being, when you were born, He cried out: "Look at her! She's exactly what I had in mind! She's a work of art, a masterpiece." 

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To read the complete article in which Judy Douglass discusses the three primary purposes for which God created us, purchase your copy of BECOMING, Vol.1: IDENTITY.