As the final chapters of Acts unfold, we see how easily Paul shared his story with so many:
Each time Paul recounts his story he includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once a hunter of the followers of Jesus, he embraced even this part of his story. His persecution of believers was horrific, yet Paul wasn’t ashamed. He had an encounter with Jesus and was set completely free.
So often, as we come to Jesus, we hide, ignore, gloss over our past. But our past, combined with our encounter with Jesus— that, my friend, is our testimony.
The Hebrew word for testimony comes from a root word that literally means “do again.” Every time we share our story, we create a landing place for God to come and do it again, so others can encounter Jesus and experience freedom.
Paul had every right to be ashamed of his past. What could be worse than fiercely hunting followers of Jesus? Yet Paul modeled for us how to embrace every part of our story without shame, guilt, or embarrassment.
In the most intense time of Paul’s full-time genocidal mission, he encountered Jesus. On the road of hatred and murder, Jesus appears to him personally. (Acts 9:4) At some point, we were all on a road headed away from Him when He intersected our lives and called us to follow Him. Jesus always intends our past to become the testimony to the world— we are called to be a witness. Shame fights against this calling, causing us to be negatively focused inward. Jesus wants to renew our self-image with the truth, so we see ourselves the way He sees us.
Paul was so transformed by his encounter with Jesus that there was no shred of shame left. The day Jesus met me in my car, He took all the shame and guilt from deep in my soul, and allowed me to share about it.
Jesus wants to meet with you, too, and mend the broken places you cannot even name. Sit for a moment with Jesus. Ask Him if there is any part of your past that is still covered in guilt or shame. Allow Him to show you what He wants to heal. As He brings events and emotions to mind, spend a few minutes forgiving and releasing those involved— including yourself. Ask Jesus what the truth is. Ask Him what He sees. Tell Him you desire to be able to minister grace and salvation to others from these past experiences.
There is power in the testimony of a woman set free from her past. May you embrace every part of your story. Then go and be a witness so that others can encounter Him also.
If so, this proves that you are living your lives centered on yourselves, dominated by the mind-set of the flesh, and behaving like unbelievers. For when you divide yourselves up in groups - a “Paul group” and an “Apollos group” - you’re acting like people without the Spirit’s influence.”
The early church in Corinth was struggling. Like every major city throughout history, it was cutting-edge modern, highly individualistic. New believers were struggling to make their faith work in their diverse culture. As Paul wrote to this body of believers, he wasn’t trying to get them to conform to his identity— Paul was writing to help them understand what it means to be God’s children.
Our emotions are like the eggs in a recipe. They serve an important purpose and function. Our emotions are divinely designed to provide structure and stability to our faith journey, and to our part in community. When we ignore our emotions and let them run unchecked, we become out of balance and unstable. In Paul’s words, we “act like people without the Spirit’s influence.”
We are triune beings; we have a spirit, a soul, and a body. Our soul is the seat of our emotions. It’s our passions, our pains, and our thoughts— all of which direct our attitudes and actions. Jealousy, comparison, offense all are fruit of our soul. But they are bad fruit. When our soul is wounded and left unchecked, it wreaks havoc on ourselves, and our relationships.
Paul’s word to the believers in Corinth is to bring ourselves back under the Spirit’s influence. Practically, we bring those wounded areas to Jesus and let Holy Spirit heal them. This is the process of being Spirit-led (Galatians 5:18). Being Spirit-led, not soul-led, is how we live together in community, united even in our diversity. Allowing Holy Spirit to tend to the wounds in our soul keeps the structure and stability.
Jealousy, comparison, and offense are healed with forgiveness and stepping back into Grace. Without forgiving and releasing people, we are forgetting the glue that holds us together: the blood of Jesus.
Where do you need to step back into Holy Spirit’s influence? Who do you need to forgive and release back to Jesus? Maybe you need to forgive someone in your family, or even yourself. Maybe you need to forgive someone at your church, or your boss at work.
Repent from giving into those comparing and judging thoughts. Give them to Jesus. Ask Him what He has for you. Ask Jesus to give you eyes to see things the way He sees them, and come back under Holy Spirit’s influence.
Memory Verse: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Getting too close to shore was a real concern. When the wind blew in the direction I wanted to go, sailing was easy-peasy. But tacking against the wind meant I had to adjust my lines, work the tiller, and continuously course-correct.
Actually, most of sailing is continuous course-correcting. And so, my friend, is life.
Life is a constant monitoring of circumstances, adjusting when necessary to aim at our destination and avoid crashing. The good news is Holy Spirit is always working in our circumstances, inviting us to course-correct when the winds of life change.
We aren’t sailing alone. We have a Guide, a Teacher, a Comforter (John 16:13).With Holy Spirit, sailing means working with the wind to make progress. Good sailing sets the sails to allow the wind to work for us. Holy Spirit is good at that.
God’s Word tells us that He ordained every day of our life before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). The circumstances that life brings your way aren’t meant to fight against you like a strong wind— they are meant to work for you to get to your destination, your destiny.
What if, instead of fighting the winds of life, we allow them to work for us? They would catapult us into our destiny instead of delaying us.
We have a choice: We can either hold the lines of our sails and the tiller of our rudder with Holy Spirit guiding us, or we can allow the circumstances of life to keep delaying us, leaving us frustrated, angry, and discouraged.
That is how the devil wants us to respond. Jesus told us the devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and when we hold on too tight to the lines and tiller, Holy Spirit doesn’t have room to course-correct. We can let the devil steal our joy, our peace, our relationships, our destiny, or we can learn to sail with Holy Spirit guiding us, moving and growing in joy and peace.
David is a great example of someone who continuously invited Holy Spirit to course-correct him. In Psalm 139 he prays, “Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways...”
David wasn’t perfect. In fact, he made a lot of terrible mistakes. But because he remained sensitive to Holy Spirit’s guidance, he was able to course-correct.
This is our model for life. God doesn’t expect us to do it alone. Today, let’s make David’s prayer the cry of our hearts, too. Let’s invite Holy Spirit to continuously course-correct us and lead us deeper into our destiny.
Sometimes we have those moments, because of a scripture or a song. Suddenly, we get what God has been trying to tell us. The big life lesson hits and (cue the mental head-slap) we get it.
That was my moment, one of the first ones. Enough was enough. My feelings had been in the driver’s seat of my life for too long, and every storm seemed to wipe me out. God was calling me to marry my feelings to my beliefs so that I could live the abundant life He created for me.
The story in Deuteronomy 7 describes Israel in the wilderness, preparing to head into new territory. It was a new season. They had reached their destiny. God gave them instructions for living in this new land. He was helping them to stay safe, and to walk out His divine plan. He knew what challenges they would face and addressed them before they ever stepped foot on the land.
God knows our propensity to be driven by our feelings. He knew Israel would face things that would draw their hearts away from Him. He knows the same is true for you and me. One of the most understated dynamics of our walk is the impact our feelings have on our faith. Feelings are real, but they are not necessarily reality.The truth is our feelings don’t always line up with our beliefs. We look around us and begin to compare ourselves, wanting the things others have.
God always has a simple process, though it may be hard and make us uncomfortable (especially when it comes to our emotions). But it’s always simple. He speaks to our beliefs about our identity to help us manage our emotions. He reminds us who we are, so that our feelings can get behind our beliefs. This is how he spoke to the Israelites, before they entered the Promised Land. This is how we, too, live in our Promised Land.
There are four beliefs that stand out to me in Deuteronomy 7:6-7:
These four beliefs can remind us about our identity, when our emotions are running rampant.
What are your feelings driving at today? Ask God what feelings you have that aren’t married to your beliefs. Let Him highlight the one He’s working on. Ask Him what you’re believing that this feeling needs to get behind. Let God remind you that you are holy, chosen, His, and loved.
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