Storytime

Brick Textures 040Having just completed a book filled with many personal testimonies, I was reminded of what God has been emphasizing to me for some time:

Each of our stories is valuable.

This was not a ‘Christian’ book. It was intended for a more universal or agnostic audience. Yet the stories repeatedly attested to the way God delivers people from the deepest, darkest places – even when they don’t specifically recognize it’s Him doing the delivering.  

If people who do not acknowledge the one true God can reveal His faithfulness, how much more the believer who knows exactly Who is behind every good thing in our lives (James 1:17)?

Granted, our stories can be ugly and painful.

Sometimes we are left wondering if things can ever be fixed, but in those cases God gives us the grace to press on.

Sometimes what we thought was unfixable is redeemed and becomes more beautiful than it was even before we screwed it up.

Sometimes it’s never fixed, but we later realize the ‘fix’ wasn’t what was needed after all.

Whatever the case with your particular story, it is worth sharing. It may be the encouragement someone out there desperately needs. So be faithful.

Too often we let the enemy convince us that our story isn’t useful. That it won’t do any good. It’s too ugly, too embarrassing, too mundane, or too common to be beneficial. His arguments against telling our stories seem limitless.

But there’s a reason Jesus said he was the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Whatever discouragement he is whispering to you, it’s simply not true.

He’s probably whispered a few more lies to you even as you are reading this:

God can use you without your story.”

If you don’t tell your story, no worries – somebody else will come along.”

Maybe your story is worth telling, but you’re not a good storyteller. Good story or not, it will sound dumb.”

People could use your story against you.”

Why are you reading this guy’s blog anyway? All this ‘feel-good’ talk is just setting you up for disappointment.

Lies! Don’t believe them.

Stay faithful. Be willing to speak. Let God take it from there.

Our trials and struggles bring two universal benefits to this life: our own personal growth and the encouragement of others. If you’re not willing to share your story, you completely nullify that second benefit.

One caveat: be careful of “suicide by transparency.” As I’ve cautioned previously, there are places for your full story and places for discernment. Different settings call for varying degrees of transparency.

Eighty years ago, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous got it right when they urged alcoholics to share their story with other alcoholics who may be helped but use discretion in public forums for their own well-being and that of their loved ones. This was wise advice then, and has stood the test of time as part of the most successful recovery program ever established. 

Sometimes face-to-face story-telling needs to be tempered with caution and restraint. 

Sometimes a full disclosure of your story needs to be done with a level of anonymity.

And sometimes, in the rare occasions when you know you’re face to face with someone who can relate and will benefit, the storytelling needs to be bloody, raw, and painfully transparent.

If you trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you will know which situation is appropriate in the moment.

But don’t let Satan steal your voice. Never let him convince you that your story isn’t worth telling. Share what God is doing in your life. Take the risk, and make a difference.

 

 

 

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What Lies Within

Household 366

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:6-7

Each of us has a gift – a message to carry to others about what God has done for us. But often it lies dormant because we don’t make the conscious effort to stir it up and put it to use.  Fear causes us to bury it or hold it back.

Sometimes that fear is the result of guilt and shame, feeling we’re unworthy or disqualified.  

Sometimes it’s due to doubt and low self-worth, a certainty that nobody really wants to hear anything we have to contribute.

Sometimes there’s just a feeling of inadequacy, that we don’t have the skills or talents to properly deliver our message. 

And sometimes it is the fear of others – what will they think or say? Will they think less or differently of me? Will my boldness stir up anger or resentment, or blow the fragile lid off of latent bitterness and unforgiveness? Will people make assumptions about my motives?

But God does not intend for that gift to be stagnant and neutralized by fear, no matter what form it takes.  As Paul encouraged Timothy, we are also urged to “stir up the gift of God which is in” us, because “God has not given us a spirit of fear.”  Whatever the source of that fear – guilt, shame, doubt, feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, potential reactions of others – it is not from God.

So what does God give us?  

Power to live larger than our flaws and failures.  With the aid of His Holy Spirit, we have the power to blast through any barriers that will rise before us.  The power to cling to the truth of our real identity in Him, throwing off the labels and the doubts, whatever their source.

Love, the only attribute against which nothing can stand.  Hatred (including self-hatred), doubt (including self-doubt), gossip, lies, labels, accusations, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness…whatever tends to reinforce our chains – all these things eventually crumble in the face of love. Read 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:18. There is nothing in the universe stronger than love.

A sound mind that isn’t riddled with insecurities, hesitancy, or negative labels.  One that knows what He intends for us and steps forward in that knowledge, regardless of what the world or those negative voices inside our heads may think or say. A mind that is renewed (Romans 12:1-2) and confident (Philippians 1:6). 

This is how God intends us to live. Living out the message He has placed within.

Don’t allow your gift to lie dormant any longer. Don’t let the Enemy or anyone else convince you that you are not useful or valid. You are that and so much more – you are a vital part of God’s plan.

 

Birthright

Castles 044A whole new aspect of the term ‘born again’ occurred to me recently. Maybe it’s nothing new to you, but it was for me.

When someone is born into money or royalty, they typically don’t go around trying to prove they are worthy of their social status. Instead, they generally have this confidence about them that says they don’t have to prove anything or earn their place. There’s this inner security that it is theirs by birth, and will be theirs until the day they die. It’s often not a conscious thought, but it underlies everything they do.

When you think about it, it would be silly for a prince to go about trying to earn the right to be called a prince when he has people who wait on him hand and foot and a crowd automatically comes to attention when he enters a room.  

It would seem ridiculous for an heiress to spend her days trying to prove she’s somebody when her wardrobe knows no bounds and the mere mention of a day on the water sets in motion a personal assistant, a limo driver, and a yacht crew.

So why do we feel when we’re born into the family of God, we suddenly have to start being good enough to belong?  Like we have to earn our sonship or daughtership?  Our heavenly Father would send scores of heavenly beings to our aid if necessary, and even tells us that someday we’ll judge angels (see 1 Cor 6:3). Our status is far greater than any heir to human fortune or throne.

Look at these verses:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13 NASB)

“to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:5, 7 NIV)

See also Romans 8:15 and Ephesians 1:5.

We’re told in these passages that God declares us to be sons (and daughters).  And so just like it would be silly for a royal heir to spend their time trying to earn their royalty, it is silly for us as children of the living God to spend our time trying to earn our place in His family.  We already have it!

Trying to earn that which we already possess is self-imposed slavery.  

We try to do good things in order to please Him. But if you’re born again He’s already pleased with you – so pleased that He calls you His daughter or son. Not a potential son, not a future daughter, but His child today. Our place in His family is secured, but not on our merits. It is secure because according to John 1:13 it’s born of God. It’s based on the promises of the One who does not lie (Titus 1:2) and does not change His mind (1 Samuel 15:29, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17).

So today, don’t go about as if you are trying to prove to the world that you deserve to be His child.  Go about knowing you are His child, and let your actions flow out of that base assumption.