Tell Your Story

Every day, we decide how to use our voices.

Have you ever felt, though, like you aren’t sure what you want to say? Sometimes, it can feel like we don’t have anything to give that might matter to someone else…sometimes, it seems like anything worth saying has already been said, like the noisy world doesn’t need our words. Sometimes it feels safer to retreat into our routines and keep our stories to ourselves. Sometimes, it’s easier to stay quiet.

But through your actions, through your silence, through your words, through your art, through your work — you are going to tell your story to the world around you, one way or another. We are placed wherever we are, in this moment, for this time. So what you choose to say matters. Your voice DOES make a difference…and, YES, you have something worthwhile to offer.

Friends, we are hope-bearers.

We hold the wonder of God’s perfect love, the beauty of heart-changing mercy, the peace of our Savior’s presence.

We have words of grace, of healing, of compassion. We have Love that turns stories of sin, pain, and brokenness into stories of all-things-made-new salvation, mourning-into-dancing, ashes-into-beauty, death-into-life.

Christ within us, the love of the Father, the gift of redemption – this is the story that is needed. It is the story that matters most.

And it is yours to tell. It is mine to tell. We are children of the light, the redeemed, the beloved…and it is time for our lives to say so. May we choose, every day, His words of life. May we choose, every day, to act in His love. May we choose, every day, to allow the story of our lives to tell His.

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One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, and I will declare Your greatness. They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness…The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your saints shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts…my mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord.” –from Psalm 145

#speaklove #tellyourstory

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Together We Follow: Genesis 9:18-29

We find our first glimpse of ordinary life after the flood in the second portion of Genesis 9.

Noah has been hard at work tending the ground. We’re told that he has planted grapes, cultivating a vineyard. One day, he drinks too much of the wine made from those grapes and he becomes drunk. This intoxication leaves him fully exposed to anyone who enters his tent.

We aren’t told if Noah intends to get drunk. We’re shown the state of his physical actions, but not the state of his heart. What we do know is that he has lost control of himself in this moment, allowing the wine to overtake him…this was sin and it does, of course, show us the danger of allowing wine – or anything that undermines the authority of God in our actions – to take control of us.

But, at this moment, my attention is drawn less to Noah’s mistake and more to the reaction of his sons in this moment of disgrace.

Ham finds his father in this vulnerable position and leaves him there, going outside to tell his brothers exactly what he had seen.

Shem and Japheth take great care to enter the tent without seeing their father’s shame, covering him with a robe.

All three of Noah’s sons had a choice in how to deal with this scene that Ham discovered.

Ham chose to further expose his father to shame. Immediately telling his brothers was not an act of respect, but a move to embarrass Noah. This was not a choice of love, but of derision. This tells us a lot about Ham’s own heart — although we don’t have specifics, there must have been some seed of contention, pride, bitterness, or anger in his heart to see this harvest of cruelty.

Shem and Japheth, however, choose to immediately help their father. They did not find pleasure in catching him in this sinful moment. In total respect, they enter into this place of Noah’s shame and cover him. This act, to me, reflects the heart of the Father who had once covered the exposed shame of their long-ago ancestors in the garden of Eden. Instead of joining Ham in pointing out Noah’s wrong, they met their father in love.

In the resulting curse and blessing on the sons of Noah, we can see how serious God is about the way we treat one another.

Always, we must keep in mind how He has treated us — this is the pattern we are to follow…His heart toward His children is the model for our own hearts.

So far, we have seen justice, yes, and consequences for sin. But His discipline flows from His love…it is meant to draw His people back to Him, to show the way of restoration and redemption. We have seen grace. We have seen mercy. We have seen compassion.

When we look ahead, we see this love in God’s own Son – Jesus comes to us, meets us in the place of our sin and shame, and covers us with His righteousness. He does not leave us helpless, but becomes our rescue. John 3:17 tells us that He does not come into the world to condemn, but to save.

It will never fail to fill me with awe  – while I was still in sin…while I was still under the control of my pride and fear…Jesus died for me.

It’s the same for you – for all of us who has been brought near to God again through the blood of our Savior.

Knowing this, how do we react to others in their sin? How do we choose to respond when someone stumbles?  How do we choose to treat our brothers and sisters – or those who don’t know God – when we see their shame?

Proverbs tell us that we shouldn’t rejoice even when our enemy falls. We should be a people of compassion — knowing the pain and bondage of sin, it is our joy to help others to find the same freedom we have been given. James tells us to turn sinners from the error of their ways if they have wandered from the truth…not to gloat over their sin or to spread word of their failure. Paul says to speak the truth to our brothers and sisters – in love. 

God did not abandon us to our stupor of sin. He redeemed us from it.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. (1 John 4:11)

Let us pray that we will be transformed by the Holy Spirit until we are like Him…let us see others in the fullness of His truth and grace.  Let us love as we have been loved. Let us meet others in their hardest places, in their moments of disgrace, and show the grace that Jesus has shown to us. Let the harvest of our hearts overflow in what the Spirit plants: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control.

Let us keep in step with Your Spirit and Your way, Father.

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Genesis 9:18-29

The sons of Noah who came out of the boat with their father were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham is the father of Canaan.) From these three sons of Noah came all the people who now populate the earth.

After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard.  One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.  Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers.  Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.

When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham: “May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.”

Then Noah said, “May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant! May God expand the territory of Japheth! May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.”

 Noah lived another 350 years after the great flood.  He lived 950 years, and then he died.

Together We Follow: Genesis 4:2-16

 

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I went on my first run in about a week and a half today, easing back into my morning routine after being sick. Walking the path that I usually take around the neighborhood, I immediately noticed that some changes had come during my absence.

A thread of cool air, an unmistakable touch of autumn, was woven into the morning wind. My neighbor’s bright green grass was dotted with brown leaves. The trees standing at the edge of the woods were all green the last time I ran through — but today, they were spotted with yellow, orange, and red leaves.

The changing leaves have far from taken over – it was, probably, a subtle shift — but one that I noticed because I have been looking at these trees and these yards all summer long. Because I’ve been paying attention all along, I saw the signs of an approaching fall.

There’s a lot that can be taken from today’s reading, but it’s a simple message to my heart today.

God knew Cain. He had always known him. He could see his heart. He knew every motivation, every intention, every feeling. He knew what Cain’s heart had been created to be…and so He could see the signs of change. Maybe He saw jealousy marring the surface of Cain’s soul, bitterness beginning to grow. Perhaps it was anger or insecurity drying out Cain’s joy, his peace. However it looked — God knew Cain, and so He recognized when he was struggling…and He wanted to help him. He wanted an abundant and free life for him. So He gave this first son of Adam a warning and an encouragement.

But Cain didn’t listen.  Instead of subduing sin, he stretched out his hands and let the enemy take control of him, binding him with anger and violence.

 

And I wonder — how many times have I dismissed or ignored the voice of the Holy Spirit? How many times have I not given Him space and time to speak to me? How many times do I choose my own voice…or the voice of someone else…or, worst of all, the voice of the enemy?

Let us see the simple facts here — God knows us. He knows our hearts, what they can be in Him…and He sees every subtle shift, every little change in us as we live.

When He speaks to us — if it is warning, if it is encourage us, if it is to tell us our next step — oh, I pray that we will put aside our pride, our fear, our wish to control, our busy-ness, our anger  (whatever it may be!) to listen. He knows what we need — He knows when it is His living water that we require, His pruning hand, or His gentle healing. He knows when we need discipline. He knows how to help us defeat the schemes of the enemy. He knows when we need comfort. He is our Creator and our Father–His intentions for us are good.

He wants to help us.

We decide whether or not we will let Him.

Lord, soften our hearts. Open our ears. Help us to know Your voice…help us to know when it is You speaking to us. Let us be aware of Your presence and actively listening for Your words. You KNOW us — and You know exactly what we need. We are like Cain – we are marked by Your mercy, Lord. When our just end could have been death, You gave us life. We know that You broke the bondage of sin for us — and it isn’t our past sins that define us, but Your sacrifice. Help us to LIVE in that victory. Help us to remember that we are more than conquerors through Your love – we are no longer slaves to sin, to fear, to shame. Teach us to hear every word that You speak — and to not just hear, but obey, growing to be ever more like You. 

 Genesis 4:2b-16

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

 

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

 

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him.

So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

 

 

Choosing Him

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Today we have a choice. And I hope that we choose adoration over anxiety, worship over worry.

I hope we choose to remember that He is always stronger, always bigger, always the God who overcomes.

This is how His joy becomes our strength, how His grace sustains us. This is where He gives peace. This is where we live by faith and not by emotion or what we can see.

Today, we choose trust. We choose joy. We choose gratitude. We choose truth.

We choose praise.

Something New in Me

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He says give Me your dry bones, stumbling feet, stone-hearts, darkened eyes. Give Me your hard-of-listening ears, your doubting spirit, your weary hands. Give Me your tired out and thirsty lives.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” He is the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Him?

He is the God of never-too-late. He is the God of here and now, the God of every tomorrow. He is the God of second chances, of life out of death, of beauty from ashes. He is the God of rivers-in-wastelands and trees springing up in the desert.

In Him brittle and desolate bones find life again, dry bones begin to dance. Feet dragging through dust start to run without growing weary, those tired feet walk and do not grow faint.

Let Him have the heart broken and barricaded, hurt and hardened. He will replace it with a heart alive in fresh mercy, in perfect love that has no fear.

Our blind-to-His-way eyes will see and our distracted ears will hear, if we are brave enough to step out of our noise (oh, there is so much noise I make for myself) and wait in His presence.

God here with us, Emmanuel, this is my offering: a willing heart and my mustard-seed (I believe; help my unbelief) faith.

And this is what I ask- to be renewed and transformed, with the mind-of-Christ — for this is our hope, the power of our God in us.

He is the weak-becomes-strong God, the praise-becomes-our-song God, the mourning-and-weeping to dancing-and-joy God.

He is the God who breathes, both gentle and fierce, new life into our aching spirits. His joy infuses new strength into our hands, our feet, our souls.

Please breathe into me, here and now. Let the flame of Your Spirit flourish bold and bright within my heart.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

(Passages from Isaiah 40:28, Jeremiah 32:27, Matthew 19:26)

I Have Decided

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This morning, let’s go ahead and make it clear. Let’s make the choice. We will not give ear to the enemy. We will not allow doubt or fear, accusation or the threat of insufficiency dwell in our minds. We will not allow deception to divide our hearts. We will not passively listen as the enemy tries to divert us from our purpose and God’s promises for us.

We are not helpless, for the Helper has come and lives within us. We are not defeated, because Christ has overcome sin, death, and darkness. We live-move-breathe in FREEDOM because of the cross. We are not barely making it, sure to fail, or only slightly acceptable in the eyes of God. We are REDEEMED. We are wearing HIS righteousness. We are LOVED. Not only can we come boldly into the throne-room of God…He has made His home within us!

We have the strength of God Almighty upholding us today. We aren’t going to be perfect, but HE is and His grace is sufficient in our weakness. We are not defenseless, because He has given us His word and His Spirit. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)

So we know who we are – sons and daughters of God. We know who He is – good, perfect in all His ways, mighty. We know His promises – all things new, all things working together for our good, all things complete in Him. We know what we have been given – His own power, His authority, His presence…

Knowing all of that, it is up to us to make the decision.

We can open our ears to the enemy and let him tell us everything we don’t have, what we are not, and how we don’t have enough to offer….OR we will use the weapons we have been given – faith, truth, the very Words of God – to cut his lies off from our hearts.

Let’s stand up and walk forward today in our rightful inheritance of peace and joy, secure with our Father going before us, knowing that offering ourselves to Him is enough. Let’s put aside the things that trip is up and put our confidence in Him. Let’s love and live to bring Him glory.

Decide here and now with me– we will NOT allow the lies of the deceiver to take up residence in our minds today.

God ALONE reigns in this home, this life, this heart.