Going Deeper into Loving Others
It’s Tuesday. Time to go deeper into loving others. Today we’re talking about sharing stories with a heart for sharing God and His glorious salvation, redemption, and healing through Christ.
Gather up your Bible, pen, journal, and a friend or two to enter into the conversation. Maybe you have a story to share with us too.
Father God, You’ve written stories into our lives, all intended to lead us to You through Your Son Jesus. Open our hearts to the Holy Spirit today. Reveal the stories You want us to share for Your glory. Prepare us to share. Amen.
Read Reflection Scripture:
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
1John 5:11 ESV
What insights did you gain from the Reflection Scripture and Reflection Thoughts which helped you understand sharing our stories as a means to loving others?
Did you notice the Reflection Scripture this week is from the same letter last week’s Reflection Scriptures were from when we talked about The Heart of Fellowship?
This verse is testimony from the original witnesses, those who walked with and learned from Jesus in His pre-resurrection body.
A testimony is a firsthand account of a fact used for authentication. Believers are called to share their testimonies, firsthand accounts, stories of their personal experiences with God: Father, Son, and Spirit. When we do, we authenticate the truth of the gospel.
The testimony these eyewitnesses are giving is to the eternal life found in Jesus, which is a gift from the Father.
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life… Our testimonies are rooted in what God gave us. Eternal life in Christ.
gave – Hebrew: didomi – 1 to give. 2 to give something to someone. 2A of one’s own accord to give one something, to his advantage. 2A1 to bestow a gift. 2B to grant, give to one asking, let have. 2C to supply, furnish, necessary things. 2D to give over, to deliver. 2D1 to reach out, extend, present… 3 to give. 3A to cause, profuse, give forth from one’s self. … (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon)
What aspects of the original language reveal the giving of eternal life in Jesus?
- God gave His Son of His own accord to bestow a gift on us.
- When we ask He gives, supplying what is necessary to deliver us from death.
- He reached out, gave forth of Himself for our salvation.
Gave… a small word filled with meaning: He gave us eternal life in His Son.
Those who receive His gift are called to do the same as the first disciples, share our testimonies of our experiences of eternal life in Jesus. God gave us these stories to share with others, so they might have life too.
Our firsthand accounts are not to be hidden.
Read Matthew 5:14-16
Jesus was speaking to Believers. What does He call us?
Light. When we share our stories of God giving us eternal life in His Son, we bring the light of Jesus into a dark world, providing hope, truth, and life.
Many of us have stories where He’s provided light and healing in very dark places. Stories we’d rather keep hidden. But we are the only light in the world. The only ones with testimony of the truth. The beginning of our stories may be ugly and dark, but He wants us to use them to give the hope of eternal life in Jesus to others.
He’s given each of us a unique way to love others through the sharing or our unique stories. Don’t hide your story of healing under a basket – give it to Him to bring you to the place where He calls you to share it in love with others as a way of sharing His love.
The testimony of the original disciples receiving eternal life in Christ, is the story which moved us to receive Him too. Like them, we have the power of our testimonies to authenticate the truth of the gospel to others. If we share them.
Prayer of Praise
How did praising God as Purposeful open your heart to sharing your story?
I once imagined God as the ingenious creator of all things. He set the planets in motion, made every creature, provided for all our needs. I marveled at the invention of gravity and the water cycle. After it was all set for human habitation, God breathed life into man. I viewed God as the creator with a hands off approach to me. I mean creation contained all I needed to do good, be good, live good. If the good didn’t happen then there must be something wrong with me, something I wasn’t doing right.
God gifted me with the ability to be obedient, successful, and love others. If I floundered or missed the mark, then there was no one to blame but myself. In my mind, I had no excuse because God purposefully made the world in a way for me to live like the good Christian I was supposed to be. I felt like a baby bird being pushed out of the nest. God like the momma bird nudged me out with a fond farewell and a promise to see me on the other side.
I giggle now as I type these words. What was I thinking? Where did this image come from? Praising God as purposeful reminds me God is full of purpose not only in creation but in every moment of my life. At no point has God nudged me out of the nest and waved goodbye. He flies alongside me with every beat of my wings. He forges ahead to make a way through the dark times and flies below to cushion my fall. And in all of this God is purposeful in teaching me to fly free.
“For those who the Son sets free, are free indeed.”–John 8:36
In the Word
We spent time this week considering different aspects of our personal experiences with God.
Turn to John 3:1-8
We considered Jesus’s teaching on the necessity of being born again to see and enter the Kingdom of God.
Read John 3:6-7
What is Jesus saying? Why shouldn’t we marvel at the need to be born again?
Knowing the hostility between flesh and Spirit (Romans 8:6-8), we should not be surprised by the need to be born again of the Spirit to be able to understand and serve in His Kingdom.
We all have a natural birth story, and those who believe also have a spiritual birth story.
The homework challenged us to write our born-again story in 100 words. Did you? Would you share your story with us?
[If you want to share, scroll to the bottom of this post on SisterTalkFaith.com and use the comment section to share your story with those who gather here.]
My story in 100 words:
I would’ve told you I was a Christian, before I became one.
God used my mom’s critical illness as a means for me to receive her testimony. While I sat in the ICU waiting room, my brother went to pray with her at my request. When he returned, he told me at the end of their prayer she said, “I trust. I trust.” With those words He captured my heart. I was no longer my own. If He was comforting my mom in her fatal illness, then I was His forever.
Nothing has been the same.
When God gives us an opportunity to share our spiritual birth stories, they can open up others to the possibility of being born again too.
Read 1Timothy 1:12-17
What is at the heart of Paul’s story?
At the heart of Paul’s story is the transforming power of coming face to face with Jesus.
Jesus revealed sin in Paul’s life he wasn’t aware of, and because of his repentance Paul received grace, mercy, love, healing, and a new purpose. It is Paul’s before-and-after story.
Re-membering his story to Timothy leads Paul to praise and glorify God. When we re-member our stories by sharing them with others, His redemptive power is kept at the forefront of our minds. We are reminded of who He is and who we are before Him.
We prepare to share our stories by first sharing them fully with Him. Allow Him to bring healing where needed and surrender our stories to Him to use however He desires.
Our before-and-after stories do not have to be long to be powerful, especially when His people share them in unison. Each one of our before-and-after stories is the testimony of His love for all people.
What emotions rose as you watched this video? Which testimony impacted you the most? Why?
Consider your before-and-after Jesus story. What would your “cardboard testimony” be?
When I first watched this video I wondered about my own testimony. What would I write on a piece of cardboard? I struggled with the words God gave me. Not because they didn’t fit, but because I was still in the re-formation process.
I still am.
If testimony is based on a finished product, I’m just not there yet. As I watched again for our study, the words God gave me haven’t changed, but I have. I’m not the same as I was and I still have a long way to go.
Today I can write two words on cardboard not only as a testimony, but a faith statement. The story God is writing in me doesn’t have to be complete to be useful. In Holy hands it has the power to shine light into dark places.
My cardboard testimony: Not Enough. Enough.
The church in the video used their cardboard testimonies to encourage monetary giving in the church, to further the work of sharing His light with others.
We believe God desires us to share our stories of light, more than He wants our money. Because the more we see the power of His grace, the more we desire to surrender all to Him for His use.
Turn to Acts 2:14-41
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus’s disciples in a powerful way. They began sharing the gospel in languages they did not know, so all could understand. But for the most part the crowd was confused.
Peter was inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell the gospel story as an eyewitness of all that had transpired seven weeks earlier: Jesus’s arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection. He told them the rest of the story and the truth of what they had done: You crucified and killed the Messiah.
How did this truth affect many in the crowd?
They were cut to the heart, convicted with grief, and asked the disciples what they were to do. Peter told them: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Three thousand were baptized and added to their numbers because of a Spirit-filled testimony of truth.
Have you been the recipient of a hard truth? How did you respond?
I called the sister angry. I blustered and shared with her my reason for being mad though I don’t remember it now. As I finished she said something like this, “You know I’ve been praying about your anger.” Wait. What? Why in the world is she praying about my anger?
I took a hard look at myself. Am I an angry person? Is anger my go to emotion? Ugh. Yep, that’s me. Though I’m reluctant to admit it, I was angry.
I’m really not sure how God healed this area of my life but He did. And I am blessed all the more for it.
Do you have a story which would help others know truth? What is it?
Read Psalm 40:1-3
Our final story was short, with little detail, but carried a powerful message of encouragement.
How did you describe this story in your own words?
Do you have a story that filled your mouth with a new song? Could you tell it with minimal detail in a way which would encourage others to fear the Lord and trust their lives to Him? What is it?
If we are following Jesus as a recipient of God’s gift of eternal life, we will have testimonies, stories, personal experiences which we can share with others for the building of the church and the Kingdom.
Are you prepared to testify?
Seeking Perspective through Examen
Did the prayer exercise of Examen help you see God’s trinitarian perspective in your stories? Or in a single story He’s calling you to share?
What are your struggles with sharing your story? What insights did you gain? Are you willing to surrender your story of grace to Him for His use?
I feel I’ve lived this Examen process the past several weeks, maybe even years, in anticipation of this teaching today.
I have a story He called me to share with the sisters who meet in our shop – an ugly story, which makes my flesh cringe at the thought of sharing. Pride, guilt, shame have cried out in unison, encouraging me to keep it hidden.
The enemy told me the story is too old now, past its “best by date.” It’s been too long it won’t make any difference, so why tell it.
In anticipation of sharing I struggled with every perspective of the Trinity in this process.
The Father: I heard Him calling me, as He did His Son, to sacrifice self, so others might be delivered to find healing and redemption.
The Son: He gave me a new perspective through the sister this week. He is the Merchant Jesus, who calls me a pearl of great price which He gave up all to possess (Matthew 13:45-46).
The Spirit: He helped me sort out the voices and revealed the truth of what I was doing.
His perspective is the one I most want to share with you today, especially for those who may be called to share their dark story.
One of the truths the Spirit revealed was my sharing was not a confession, which is how I anticipated the sharing before He straightened me out. Confessions are for those you’ve wounded and robbed in some way because of your sinful choice. They are an important part of the healing process to prepare you to share your story for His glory.
The coming to this point involved many confessions, and there are still more to come, but for now, for today, God is calling me to share my testimony. A testimony is not so much about what we’ve done, but about who He is and what He’s done. Our dark stories make a dramatic backdrop for His glory — like a diamond on black velvet.
Because even though my story is ugly, in His grace and love He’s brought me to a place of healing, peace, and joy. He’s calling me to lead others to this place too, who have walked the same dark path I have. To let them know there is light, forgiveness, and healing when we bring our sin to Him.
Sharing my story is about God asking me to set my dark story free for His glory. To use anyway He wants in the healing and building of His Kingdom.
It is this testimony which keeps me humble, grace-full, and in love with my Savior.
By faith, I believe and trust, it’s a new ministry He’s calling me to share within my community.
I pray you’ll find encouragement to let Him have your story too.
There is always a risk when our stories are shared. Yet, there is a beautiful anticipation of the way God will use our stories to impact others’ lives.
We pray God will open you to the possibilities your story has to build the Kingdom, and that He will grow your faith to the point where nothing can stop you from sharing your story.
Our next Going Deeper into Loving Others through the faith practice of Share is sharing our Gifts, the spiritual gifts God has given each one of us for the building up of His church.
A PDF of the Homework can be found here: Share Week 3_ Gifts – Homework
Father God, Your story is great, and so are ours when we surrender them to You. Bless us with the faith to trust You with whatever has been written into our lives for Your glory.