Your story is not over; there are still chapters unwritten. You may not be able to change the past, but you can change your future.
Your story is not over; there are still chapters unwritten. You may not be able to change the past, but you can change your future.
I hope you have enjoyed this series on the Power of Words. As we have learned, our words have the power to make a difference in our world. I thought I would end the series with a practical tip to remind yourself to use your words for good instead of evil.
Everyone needs encouragement, including me. With the explosion of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, my heart’s desire is to be noticed, heard and validated, especially when I have accomplished a specific goal in my life.
However, my vocation often calls me to work in isolation. Staying motivated can be a daunting task. Having a way to stay encouraged, however, keeps me on the right track toward finishing my tasks and reaching my goals.
One way to keep me encouraged is an encouragement board. Each time I receive an encouraging word from a friend or an inspiring quote, I tack it onto my board. In times of discouragement or frustration, I look at it to remind myself not only of what I am doing, but more importantly why I am doing it.
Here are three items you can tack on your encouragement board:
1) Scripture quotations- Nothing inspires me more than a quotation from the oldest and most transformative book I own– the bible. Jeremiah 29:11, John 15:4-5, and Proverbs 27:17 are all great examples of inspiring quotes that keep my fingers typing in times of stress or discouragement.
2) Quotes from other authors- Are there other authors that you enjoy whose words have pierced your heart? If so, write them on an index card or type it onto different colored paper. The different colors will catch your eye and remind you to keep pressing on towards your goal.
3) Photos or Images- Does a serene beach scene, an old photo of friends and family or a picture of an accomplished athlete spur you on to accomplishing great things too? Intersperse those photos among your quotes. Go crazy! The wilder the better!
We all need something to inspire us. What inspires you?
“This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder.”-2 peter 3:1
God has created you with unique stories, circumstances and situations that only you have experienced. People want to know you because of who you are and what you have gone through. They want to see you share that story in a way that points them to Christ. Holley Gerth, author of You’re Made for a God Sized Dream exhorts, “You are who you are for a reason. God could have designed you in any way that he wanted. After all, he spoke the world into being. Customizing you wasn’t a challenge. So why would he create you in a way that didn’t match up with the biggest dreams he has for your life?”1 Every one of your experiences is unique to who you are and designed to transform you into Christ-likeness. You just have the boldness to share your story in order to engage them in the overall mission of God.
Your story is more than just the words that escape your lips during a public prayer time, the amount of Scripture you have memorized or the conversations you have over a cup of tea with a girlfriend. Your story defines you. As you mature, your story changes, just as your theology and knowledge of the word changes. As you grow, your knowledge of the word grows, too, allowing you to evolve into the person God has made you to be.
What if God is calling you to impact others with your story? Pray and ask God who God would want you to share your story with today.
1 Holley Gerth, You’re Made for a God Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You, (Grand Rapids: Revell Books, 2013), 30.
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”- Colossians 4:6
Last night at dinner, I took the juicy chicken from the oven and placed the steaming hot morsels onto my plate. I portioned my children’s plates then sat down to eat. Picking up the saltshaker, I shook it over the chicken, hoping to add some flavor. But to my surprise, nothing came out! I shook and shook. Still nothing. I ran it under hot water, hoping to unclog the holes but still nothing. To my chagrin, I gave up. I popped the chicken into my mouth. Although it tasted good, I couldn’t help but notice how much better it could have been if I had the benefit of some salt on it.
It’s the same with our words. As Christians, we have the best news of all—the Good News! But our words are seasoned with condemnation rather than grace. Just as I longed to savor the chicken with the extra flavor salt can add, the world longs for our acceptance rather than our chastisement.
We don’t have to fully accept sinful behavior to accept someone as a person. Even Christ didn’t do that. He didn’t blindly welcome everyone into God’s kingdom. In fact, he made it clear that His disciples are those who hold to His Father’s teachings. He still had to die so the ultimate penalty for our sin could be paid. But He took on our sin so we could have the opportunity to be free. That’s grace. Grace helps us love people just as they are. As we season our lives with grace, others will truly understand who Christ is and bring them closer to the opportunity to be set free.
Is your witness to others seasoned with grace or with condemnation?
“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal…Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”- James 3:3-5
When talking about spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23), I’ve come a long way in many of these areas—love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. All, except for one: Self-control. Yes I eat too much at times and spend too much money. But that’s not the area of self- control I struggle with the most.
I struggle with my tongue.
I get myself into trouble when I don’t exhibit restraint, especially during conflict. I get mad when I feel someone is attacking my character, causing me to lash out and win the argument. I also find myself puffing my chest up when I post pictures of my or my family’s accomplishments on social media. If no one else is going to brag, then I should, right?
But the deeper issue when I do that is not my mouth.
It’s my soul.
When I boast with my tongue, I am giving a voice to the sin that eats away at my soul. When I lack self-control in my speech, I resist the notion that my sufficiency and worth comes from God, not from me.
That’s not how a Christian should be.
Like the above Scripture suggests, horse trainers place a “bit” in the mouth of a horse to keep it from bucking out of control. If the trainer can control the horse’s mouth, the whole body follows. In the same way, if I can exercise restraint and bite my tongue in times of conflict, resisting the urge to be right, my soul will follow.
In what ways do you need to exhibit self-control with your tongue?
Imagine you have a large bowl of clear water in front of you. Next to the bowl are four different colors of food coloring; each color represents a different facet of a person’s spiritual growth. The first is red, which represents our time studying the word of God. As we read the word daily, it penetrates our lives and helps us to know God more intimately. The second color is blue and that represents our prayer time. As we present our requests to Go and we listen to him and get to know his voice, we are able to discern God’s will for our lives, The third color is yellow and it represents our church attendance. As we regularly attend a local church, we get to know people and people get to know us. We are identified as a fellow believer and we enjoy the gift of fellowship and sharing a meal together. The fourth color is green and it represents anything else we do (listen to Christian music, read Christian books, watch church on tv, anything we believe fills our souls. As a couple of drops of food coloring is added to the bowl, couple of interesting things happen:
1) Each color colors the water part way, but no color permeates the water completely to completely saturate the water. No one color is living up to its full potential.
2) Another thing to note is that each color is just passively sitting at the bottom, but none is actually transforming the water to something different.
3) If all the colors worked together, all of them together could use their properties to change the water.
4) All the colors are lacking the ability to individually transform the water.
What it is missing is something to stir it up. Small groups are the things in our lives that, if we let it, allow us to stir within us the gifts God has given us to transform not only our lives, but also the lives of others.
Even Jesus chose to spend his ministry time in a small group with his disciples. Mark 3:13-15 says, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” The two purposes of small groups, according to this passage, is for community (to be with him) and to reproduce them into leaders so that they may use the gifts they have been given and carry on the Gospel message to others. Similarly, the disciples understood the need for community. Acts 2:42-47 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” The word devoted used here is defined as “completely loyal, to give all or a large part of one's time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause).” To achieve the deep intimacy and connection we all crave, we have to give our time and resources to invest in others. This may mean giving our time, energy and resources to achieve this. Small groups are a place where you can invest your time and resources.
But small groups are not a passive event. Small groups come with the expectation that each person will participate and be used. 1 Corinthians 14: 26 says, “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” While all the other activities we do individually during our week contribute to our spiritual growth, small groups help meet our needs for connection and community while allowing us to use the gifts we have been given to edify the church. But the key to intimacy and connection is this:
Information does not lead to transformation, but the application of that information does.
Small groups are the place where we can lay aside our burdens and allow others to carry our burdens with us. It’s the place where we can safely express our doubts and concerns about faith, and most importantly about God. Small groups create an environment where all members are sharpened so they may go deeper in their walk with God.
Here are three keys to achieving that success:
Vulnerability- be willing to share your story with others. You must model vulnerability by being vulnerable. Going beyond the surface and sharing your feelings with others establishes trust, and trust opens the gates to intimacy.
Authenticity- too often, we hide our feelings behind a mask. We say “fine,” when someone asks how we are, instead of telling them how we are really doing. The small group atmosphere is the place where we can share our true feelings and gives women license to spill their secrets.
Reliability- my father used to tell me “Half of life is showing up.” This is true, especially when it comes to small groups. Make small group a priority. Clear your calendar. The more consistently you attend, the other members will follow suit and trust is most quickly gained.
“But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.”-Acts 5:33
“I think you are being really selfish about this,” a close friend said to me. Her words sliced me in two like a knife cutting through a sandwich. Being good friends for a while, I admired her greatly. But my immediate reaction was not one of remorse or compassion, but one of anger and rage. Although she was right in correcting my behavior, I was not willing to hear what she had to say. I reacted poorly, causing an irreparable rift between us. My pride that I was doing ok as a Christian had clouded my judgment. Although she was telling me this for my benefit, I could not see it that way. I could only feel my humiliation and reacted out of embarrassment.
It was the same with the Pharisees. They couldn’t stand what Stephen was saying to them because it meant their reputation in the sight of the community would be tarnished. Instead of reacting like the people did at Peter’s words in Acts chapter two, the Pharisees acted out of anger and sought revenge as a result. Stephen lost his life doing what was right in God’s sight, despite what others in society thought of him.
Correction can be tough, but it is necessary for us to grow in our faith. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” With everything in life, bad parts have to be removed so growth can result. Cancer has to be removed so cells within the body can function properly. Weeds tormenting a garden can cause the fruit and vegetables to cease growth. Split ends on hair have to be cut so the hair can remain healthy. All of life demands the bad parts of it removed so new growth can result.
But people don’t want to confront someone for fear it will cause conflict, or worse, end a friendship. But if someone (like me) doesn’t respect the other person enough to hear and heed his/her words, am I really being a good friend?
We all have stories. Stories that open up old wounds so they are expose the raw pain that lies underneath. Stories that make us feel unworthy, unloved and unwanted. Our temptation is to keep it buried, so we can avoid the hurt and emptiness.
I know what you are thinking: If I share my story, what will people think of me?
But what if your story could change someone’s life? Would you share it then?
Our stories are still one of the best ways to demonstrate God’s presence in our lives. As we share our testimonies we also share the Good news of Christ. As our means of evangelism have changed, our need to share the gospel has not.
2 Corinthians 3:2: “you yourselves are our letter, known and read by everyone, being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, written not by ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on the tablets of human hearts.”
Bob Hostetler in his article entitled Who Changed the channel said, “Focus your Christian witness on the personal. Today’s seekers are not so much asking whether the Gospel is credible; they are asking whether it is relevant. “Is it true?” has been replaced by “Will it work for me?” Thus, there has never been a better time to share our personal testimonies.” 1
Sharing our stories with others not only heals us but helps heal others, too. Here are three key ingredients to sharing your stories, no matter how difficult they may be:
Authenticity- is the key to sharing our testimonies. Our passion for what God has done for us should shine in our lives. Our stories are how we communicate that passion.
Honesty- Honesty does not only involve being honest with others, but yourself as well. If you are a mother, share your failures as a mother. When you are wrong, apologize. Demonstrate your humanity rather than a distant authority figure. Show your children that God is a loving, personal friend and father. Sue Kline states, “Most postmoderns are interested in hearing people’s stories. If we listen with genuine interest to the stories of non-Christians, they will listen to our stories, which are just like theirs but with the added surprise of redemption.” 2
Vulnerability- In today’s postmodern culture, people are longing for relationships with those who aren’t afraid to share the heartaches and struggles of life with others. Life is messy. So is the church. Those who are willing to admit that can successfully point to others to the One who can fix that mess.
We all have a story to tell. Those stories together form the fabric of the tapestry that is the church.
“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"- Acts 2:37
In the public speaking class I teach, I teach my students that there are four purposes of speeches. The first is to strengthen the audiences’ commitment, which means the audience continues to agree with your position. A speech can weaken the audience’s commitment, meaning they change their thinking on the topic based on the speech. The speech can be so well delivered that the audience converts, meaning they now take the speaker’s position on a topic. The fourth purpose is to induce a specific action, meaning the audience acts on what they just heard. Although it is rare the audience actually acts upon what they have heard, a speaker must deliver a thoughtful, well written speech for an audience to take the speaker’s position. In this verse, Peter didn’t need to rehearse what he had to say because he had first hand experience of who Christ was because of the time he spent with him. He also had passion in testifying to what he had seen and heard.
In this passage, the people were so moved by Peter’s words, they converted to Christianity. This is especially powerful because those same people just witnessed Christ’s death for what they believed was blasphemy. It would be easy for them not to act for fear they would also be crucified. But Peter spoke with such conviction, he persuaded his audience to take action.
When we talk about our Christ experiences, do we speak with the same conviction? Are people moved by our stories because we share with passion? Do we testify out of obedience to Christ, or refuse to share based on fear?
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” - John 8:31-32
In today's society, churches have made it easy for people to be a fan of Christ, rather than a true follower. But discipleship is essential to a Christian's spiritual growth. A Christian cannot be a disciple without a desire to know the word of God. According to this verse, it is not enough to simply know the word, but to do what it says.
But it's easier said than done. I spend ninety-five percent of my time reacting to what people have said to me. I become a barometer, which reacts to the atmosphere around me, rather than a thermometer, which sets and changes the temperature of a given room. With my words, I create an atmosphere to reflect positivity or react to negativity, which only breeds more negativity in the end.
I allow the lies that Satan tells me to cloud my judgment. Instead of allowing the truth to guide my words, I instead allow lies to guide me, leading down a destructive path. Lies unchecked enslave me to my own thoughts, and my words follow suit.
But there is hope. Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Through Christ I can be set free! Through repentance and accountability, Jesus unlocks the door to my self-made jail cell. By his death and resurrection, he chose to walk into the cell, lock himself in, and throw away the key.
So I can experience lasting freedom.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-3
Isn't it amazing that John refers to God himself as the Word? If God can create everything in the world and according to this verse He also contains all life, then my words must hold great weight and power in others' lives! My words can bring light into the darkest of places. If I have the life of Christ within me, then my words should reflect that life. If I want to bring light into a dark world, my words can help me do that.
Here are some ways my words can bring light into the dark world:
It helps me see what's truly around me - When I stumble around in a dark room, it makes it tough for me to see objects in a room. Illuminating a room helps me to see what's really there. My words, whether peppered with truth or encouragement, allow me to see people and situations for what they really are. My words also allow others to see me for who I really am as well.
Once the light is used for illumination it is hard to get rid of- Dark rooms are only dark because of their absence of light. Once I let the light of the truth of God's word into my heart, it’s tough to become dark again. I may cower from the brightness, but soon I will adjust based on my desire to want the light. Being in a lighted room is much better than being in a darkened one.
Light enhances my life; darkness hinders my life- I know of no one who would prefer to live in a home with no light. Our bodies are made for light. Those that suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can attest to this. Too much darkness can cause detrimental physiological effects on my body if it goes too long without darkness.
We are called to bring light to a dark world. Are you the light that others seek to illuminate their lives?
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