Choosing to Receive
We are so happy you’re here to gather with us again. Let us assure you, we do not take it for granted God has brought you to this place and we are blessed by the privilege of exploring God’s Word with you.
Before we dive into study, let’s settle our hearts and minds with a prayer exercise called Breath Prayer. Breath prayers help us engage our mind and heart with the Lord.
Begin by taking a few deep breaths. As you allow your breathing to return to its normal rhythm, notice when you inhale and exhale. Breath Prayer is simply aligning the words you pray with your natural rhythmic breathing.
Listen to these words about Samuel.
When Samuel was a boy the prophet Eli taught him how to discern the voice of the Lord. Samuel grew to become a great prophet and he helped many other people to hear God’s voice, most notably David. Throughout his life and ministry David “inquired of the Lord” through conversing with Samuel. This was key to David’s well-being, family relationships, and leadership of Israel. When David stopped inquiring of the Lord with Samuel’s help he had his downfall, which greatly damaged him, his family, and his country (2 Samuel 11).
To discern God’s thoughts and feelings we need to practice quieting our heart and waiting on our Lord. For help we can use Samuel’s words as a breath prayer for ourselves or a loved one.Breath Prayer Guides, Gaultiere, p.11
We’ll use Samuel’s response to God. The words are:
for your servant is listening…
As you inhale whisper… Speak Lord…
As you exhale whisper… For your servant is listening…
Continue this rhythm for a few minutes and end your prayer time with the words… Let it be so.
In the Winepress: The pressing we feel.
In our homework, we explored part of Joseph’s story, another person found in God’s Metastory through whom we can learn how trouble reveals a call and a new identity.
The trouble Joseph faced led to a series of unusual places: a pit, enslavement, imprisonment, then a sudden and miraculous rise in status to one of the highest ruling positions in the foreign land where he’d been taken and sold as a slave.
Every unusual place Joseph landed came with challenges. We can only imagine the feelings he felt.
Like Joseph, we have feelings connected to the places where trouble has driven us. Perhaps you identify with some of the emotions listed above.
Examining our emotions and feelings help us sort out what the trouble we’re facing is exposing in our hearts. We use the words interchangeably — emotions and feelings — but professional psychologists make a distinction between the two. One Psychology Today contributor writes:
“Emotions originate as sensations in the body. Feelings are influenced by our emotions but are generated from our mental thoughts.”https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-pleasure-is-all-yours/202202/the-important-difference-between-emotions-and-feelings
The distinction between the two is found in their source. Emotions manifest unconsciously and are a physical sensation. Feelings on the other hand occur in the conscious part of our brain. While they are influenced by our emotions they are generated by our perception of the situation and those involved, including ourselves.
Learning to distinguish between our feelings and emotions helps us identify what is in our heart. Emotions were created by God, they are part of bearing His image. But our emotions were marred in the Fall (Genesis 3) just like everything else. When we take them to God, He can help us understand their source. Feelings, on the other hand, can reveal the “story” we’ve written with our broken understanding and view of things. God can straighten us out on both counts and reveal the heart of the wounds being stirred up by the trouble in our lives.
The breath prayer we used to begin the session is based on Samuel’s response to God’s call when he was a boy (1Samuel 3:10). Later, we see Samuel following God’s lead to anoint a new king over Israel after the first chosen king failed to obey God’s call on his life.
At God’s instruction, Samuel went to Jesse’s household in Bethlehem where one of his sons was God’s next choice for king. Samuel told Jesse to gather his sons, which he did, except for one. When Samuel considered the outward appearance of the oldest son, he thought certainly he must be God’s choice.
Let’s read God’s response to Samuel’s thought.
Read 1Samuel 16:6-7
- What instruction did God give Samuel?
- How does this relate to our feelings versus emotions?
Samuel felt Jesse’s oldest was the chosen one because of his physical appearance, something that came from Samuel’s preconceived idea of what a king should look like. A sense of excitement may have risen within Samuel when the young man entered the room adding validity to his feeling.
While God is concerned with our entire body, mind, and soul, the condition of our hearts is His main objective. For our hearts are “the source of life” and out of them “flows the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Exploring the root of our feelings back to the emotion opens our eyes to the inner work God does in our unusual places.
Thursday morning I found myself in an unusual place. As my friend shared her trouble, which is also my trouble, tears welled and I sat down in a slump. “I am so tired of this,” I explained.
When I examined my feelings of frustration I kept returning to my physical response. What I noticed was the feelings pointed to a deeper emotion of helplessness. When I looked up the definition I found these words, “unguarded, unprotected… vulnerable” (Merriam Webster).
Reading the word vulnerable was like an arrow landing in my heart to pinpoint the deeper issue. I was expecting all those involved in the trouble of this unusual place to guard, protect, and put the condition of my heart first. I didn’t get what I expected, but what I did get was a clear picture of who I was looking to for help. Ugh… it’s not pretty to look into your own heart and recognize you were trusting man instead of God for help. In the recognition, I repented.
I heard the words of Psalm 121 as God’s response to my repentance. I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help…My Help… comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth (emphasis mine).
Read Romans 15:4
- What does Scripture have the power to do for us?
God gave us the Bible for instruction as His follower. Through its encouragement and our willingness to persevere in our faith, it blesses us with hope.
Hanging onto Scripture that speaks to our stirred up emotions and feelings when trouble surrounds and life gets uncomfortable can help settle our hearts as it reveals and heals the hurt we’ve endured.
Praise God for the grace of His Word!
Finding Our Place in the Story: Presenting what you’ve prepared.
God’s call on Gideon’s life prompted him to take a step of discernment by giving a gift to the Lord. Was what this messenger of God saying true? Am I a man of valor? Does he really mean for me to save Israel? Is He really who He says He is? With unspoken questions on his heart, Gideon went home to prepare his gift.
Read Judges 6:19-20
- What did Gideon do once the meal was finished cooking?
Once Gideon’s preparation was done — utilizing his practice, time, and exercising sacrifice — he took the meat and placed it in a basket. The broth he poured into a pot and then he returned to the place where the angel of the Lord might be waiting.
Gideon prepared the gift. Then Gideon presented the gift.
We’ve reminded you along the way, you have a gift to give, God has a call for you. Are you ready to answer these questions?
- What gift has God brought to your mind and heart? What is He calling you to prepare?
- What steps of preparation have you been inspired to take?
Following Gideon’s lead, once the preparation is done, it is time to present our gifts.
- What feelings arise when you consider presenting your gift to God for His use in the world?
- What deeper work do these feelings point to in you? What emotions lie at the root of your feelings? What thoughts or perceptions are influencing those feelings?
Doubt is the feeling I have when it comes to the time of presenting the gift I feel God calling me to give. My thoughts run amuck. Did I hear God right? Is this really what God wants me to do? Did I prepare in the right way? Did I prepare enough? What if I’m wrong or fall flat on my face? What will others feel or experience? What will they think?
My feelings of doubt point to the emotion of fear. At the heart of my doubting is a forgetting who God is and who He is calling me to be. I’ve forgotten that God is the Giver of the gifts, the Power behind the preparation, and the only One to fear when it comes to presenting those gifts.
And if I fail… well God will use that too.
Fear is the greatest deterrent when it comes to taking steps of faith. It’s what the enemy uses to paralyze us, cause us to question, and keep us from stepping out as God calls. It was fear that caused the Master’s servant to bury the talent entrusted to him.
You’ve been trusted with a talent, too. A spiritual gift for the ministry of reconciliation, bringing the world back into a right relationship with the Father.
- What common fear is listed in these verses?
- What do these verses tell us about this particular fear?
Fear of the Lord is the only fear we are to let rule our lives. We are not born with a proper fear of the Lord. We must be taught and learn what it means to have a right attitude toward God. Fear of the Lord increases as we come to know God through His Word and obedience to it. And it is the only kind of fear that leads to a life filled with rest, satisfaction, and peace.
Fostering a right understanding of God and an attitude of biblical fear eliminates any other fear hindering us from serving Him with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. Remembering what’s at stake and who it is we serve emboldens us to prepare and present our gifts.
We must remember all the calls to use our gifts are part of God’s plan of reconciliation, and it all begins with trusting Jesus has paid the price so we might be called children of God. When we choose to accept Him and follow Him, we become new creations and His mission becomes our mission: ”to reconcile the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
In the homework we explored taking on a new role by looking at our past experiences.
- What feelings do you remember from times of transition in taking on a new identity? A student? parent? leader? professional?
- How long did it take you to feel comfortable in this new role?
Walking as a new creation, using the gifts God has given us for His glory, is often an uncomfortable journey. It gets easier as we practice using our gifts and living out the truth of our new identity, but we will continue to face challenges along the way. As long as we live on planet earth in these fragile bodies we will find ourselves in uncomfortable places from time to time.
We must remember the Metastory in which we live, especially when it comes to using our spiritual gifts for God’s glory. We live in a world at war! The battle not only rages around us but in us. A battle for God’s rule of light over darkness, good over evil. Even the challenge to remember who we are in Christ in the face of our feelings can be a daily fight.
When the angel of the Lord called Gideon, He was calling him to be who God created him to be: O mighty man of valor! It’s true for us too. When God places a call on our life, it reveals our true identity. Our identity in Christ.
- Is there a name you hear God calling you?
- What does this name say about your identity in God?
- What emotions rise?
- Will you receive your new identity? Why or why not?
Through the time of preparation and the walk of presentation, it is essential for us to remember who we are in Christ: Who God calls us to be. Who He created us to be. Who empowers us to do all He calls us to do.
Remembering the reality of the Metastory in which we live helps us stand confident as we present our gifts. This remembering is an exercise of faith. It builds our trust in how and where God is leading us to use our gifts for the mission of reconciling the whole world to Himself through Jesus and for His glory.
Last week you collected coins to represent the gifts God has placed in you. A reminder God is preparing those gifts in you and urging you to present them to Him.
This week find a small stone.
When you find one, pray through the prayer exercise below.
Close your eyes. Take a moment to turn the stone you found over in your hand. Notice how the stone feels.
What words come to mind as you consider how the stone feels?
Listen to these ancient words from Psalm 18:1-3.
I love you, O Lord, my strength… notice the strength of your rock.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer… tell God your desire to be delivered from the trouble you are in.
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge… imagine the refuge of hiding yourself in Jesus, the Rock.
My shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold… praise God for His strength.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised… give thanks for the gift God is preparing you to present to Him.
Ask God for a word that points you to your identity in Him. Write the word on your rock. Carry the rock in your pocket or purse this week as a reminder of your truest identity.
Close your time of prayer with the song Ancient Word.
Prepare for the next session.
Be open to hear God’s call to you.Stacy & Carol