Daily Devotional for Week 1 ~ Telling Your Story ~ Blessed to be a Blessing

Below please find week one of the daily devotionals for “Telling Your Story” written by Rev. Sarah Dorrance

Day 1                                      We Love to Tell Stories                                            Luke 1: 1-4

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” NIV

My Mother is always telling stories of how she and her siblings went to her Grandmother’s farm in Pennsylvania over the summer when she was growing up. I love to hear the story of the two seater outhouse and how there was NO WAY she and her sister were going to use a side by side seating place in the out-house to do their private business. Stories make us laugh, stories make us cry, and stories carry down family traditions. We remember our family history through the telling of the narrative story.

The same is true of our Christian story. Praise God that the Gospel writer Luke was compelled to tell the story of Jesus. He gave us a narrative witness. Jesus was also always telling stories. Many of them are called parables. You can probably even name some of them, “The parable of the Good Samaritan;” “The parable of the Sower.” In reality the Bible is one great narrative, one great love story of how God loved God’s created people. This truly is the greatest story ever told. The exciting part is that we are part of the story! We are part of God’s story! As such, we have a role to continue telling the story. We share stories of our families, why are we reluctant to tell stories of God’s family?

As we enter into this seven week immersion series of “Telling Our Stories,” it is our prayer that you can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to think about your God story—and that you will have the courage to tell it. It has often been said that you might be the only person who will reflect Jesus to someone in your life. That person might be a family member, or that person might be a random person in the street that God placed in your path for a “Time such as this.”[1]

As you become more keenly aware your life story intertwining with God’s greater narrative, you might also become more aware of places that are natural paths towards sharing part of your God story.

Reflection: How do you see God reshaping your story to be something that can be shared with others?

Prayer: God of all Creation: It is scary to think that I might be the only person reflecting Jesus in the life of someone else. It is even more scary to think that I might be the one to tell them a God story, a story of how you have encouraged me, and how that in turn, can encourage them. Empower me, through your Holy Spirit to have courage to speak, when I do not want to speak. Empower me to listen, learn, and to be encouraged, just as others have encouraged me. Amen.

Day 2                                      Who First Told You about Jesus?                 Matthew 19:13–15

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away.” NIV

Who first told you about God? Who shared with you the Good News of Jesus? When my own children were growing up, some of our most precious moments were every evening when we read the Children’s Bible together. I would even find my daughters, after lights were out, with a flashlight looking at the pictures in their Bibles. By the time they went to Sunday School at our local church they were already proficient in the stories of Jesus.

Many of us had stories of Jesus shared with us when we were young. Someone in your life probably shared a God story with you, too—either when you were young or as an adult. What did that look like for you? What do you remember from those times? Are those happy memories or sad memories? Perhaps today you can share one of those memories with someone.

What would you be missing in your life if that person or those persons had not shared God stories with you? Would there have been another place to hear the stories about Jesus? In 2004 the Barna study indicated that, “nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. One out of eight born again people (13%) made their profession of faith while 18 to 21 years old. Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their 21st birthday. Barna also noted that these figures are consistent with similar studies it has conducted during the past 20 years, saying that is easier to come to know Jesus when we are younger than when we are older.[2]

Reflection: Give thanks to God this day for those who shared God stories with you. What child can hear a God story from you?

Prayer: God, this day I give you thanks for those who told me about you. I thank you for those who cared about me enough to tell me about Jesus. Place on my heart today, those persons with whom I might be able to share Jesus. Give me wisdom to know when to speak, and wisdom to know when to be silent. Amen.

Day 3                                                  Blessing the Nations                                      Genesis 26:4

“I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” NIV

God made a covenantal promise with Abraham. Abraham was blessed so that he would be a blessing to the nations. That promise went down through Abraham’s descendants, always with the stipulation that they were to be a blessing to the other nations. That promise goes through all the descendants of Abraham, to Isaac and all the others, and ultimately the promise continues through Jesus and becomes grafted onto those who call themselves Christians.

Blessing the nations is another way of being our “brother’s keeper.” We see the effects of sin in the first offspring from Adam and Eve, when Cain killed his brother Abel. The question Cain asks of God is, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”[3]

In our culture we continue to ask this question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “Am I responsible for the nations? The biblical witness from beginning to end seems to give us a resounding “yes.” From Cain and Abel, to the promise given to the descendants of Abraham, to Jesus seeing that the people were like “sheep without a shepherd.”[4] How did Jesus respond? Jesus had compassion upon the people. Jesus had compassion for the nations.

So how do we bless the nations? One way is that we are to be a godly reflection to them. We are to be so aligned with God that others want to know who God is because of our demeanor; because of our actions; because of the way we care for others; because of our communities, because of our hope, and because we are kingdom builders. How are we doing in blessing the nations?

Reflection: How can I be a blessing to those who are placed around me in my daily living?

Prayer: God, we fall short of your glory and we fall short of reflecting you in the world. Empower us to see the nations and our neighbors with your eyes. Remind me that you love each of them as much as you love me. Help me to be my brother’s keeper. Amen.

Day 4                                                  The Gospel Message                         2 Corinthians 5:21

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” NIV

The signs in the stadium read, “We believe!” It was not hard to know what the people holding the signs believed in—this was the state championship high school football game. Everyone knew that the signs were an indicator that those around believed the team they supported could win the game. We believe!

Christians should be holding those kinds of signs. “We believe!” One of the first problems the sign holder would have to face is, “In what or in whom do I believe?” Often times we have trouble articulating what we believe as Christians. We know some of the “fancy” words, but do we know what we believe? Do I know what I believe?

The Nicene Creed, written by the early church Bishops during the first Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D., is considered one of the universal documents to clarify what a Christian believes. In the Nicene Creed, we state the Gospel message. What is the Gospel message? That Jesus on the cross became the sin that every human has been and has done, so that the wrath of God for the effects of sin, would not fall upon humans, but rather on Jesus on the cross. Humans were, because of the work of Christ on the cross, made sinless and could be reconciled to God—in spite of sin. Sin can be defined as anything that separates us from God. If Jesus was in the football stadium and you were holding up a sign, what would that sign say? This is a good time to consider the question, “What do you believe?” The answer to that question might change over time, or it might have already changed. Our God stories become more powerful if we know what we believe about who God is and how God acts in the world. As the man stated in Mark 9:24, “Lord I do believe, help my unbelief.” Be honest before God. Share your deepest longing, for God already knows your heart’s desire. We can win the game too!

Reflection: Read the Nicene Creed. (https://www.ccel.org/creeds/nicene.creed.html.) Is there anything in this creed about which you are uncertain? If you have questions, ask your pastor or small group leader. Today is a good time to sit down and begin the process of thinking through what you believe.

Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: This day we come before you begging for you to empower us to believe those things that might be more difficult for us to understand or articulate. Lord, we believe, help our unbelief. Amen.

Day 5                                                  Beautiful Feet                                    Romans 10:14-15

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” NIV

When I was a child I would look at people’s feet. I would often wonder where those feet had been and where they had carried the person. Where will those feet go next?

A greater understanding of the role of feet began to slowly dawn on me as I read the words of Paul, who was referring back to the prophet Isaiah, who says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”[5]

If Paul had not taken the Gospel message out to the nations, you and I might never have heard about Jesus. We might not have had the opportunity to hear the hope that is in Christ. It might be hard to believe in our technological age that there are still nations around the world and people groups who have not heard about Jesus. It is even more difficult to believe there are people in our own neighborhoods who have not heard the Gospel message. Yet, there are people in our own backyards who, while they have driven past churches, really do not know what people “do” inside a church. To them, church is a place of judgment and condemnation of the world. To them, church is irrelevant to their lives.

You might ask, “How it is that people in our own backyards have not heard about Jesus and why are our churches perceived as irrelevant?” The reality is our American culture has changed. According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research[6], more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly. As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church. In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends.[7]

As the map of American church life changes, so, too, we must change in order to meet the needs of the culture. Our message does not change, but the way in which we deliver the message and the way in which we reach American culture must change in order for us to be effective witnesses for Jesus.

This is where the missional church comes in. How can we bless the nations? How can we bless those in our backyards? This is our challenge. Are you up for it?

Reflection: How can we share the hope that we have in Christ to a people of a culture that might not see the church as relevant in their lives?

Prayer: Risen Christ, Give me opportunities and the courage to be a reflection of you in my culture and in my circles of influence. By the power of your Spirit, help me have the right words to show that you are the only relevant thing in our lives. Amen.

Day 6                                      Hoarding or Sharing?                                    2 Corinthians 9:13

“Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the Gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” NIV

Sometimes my good friend in France sends me chocolates direct from France. They are some of the best chocolates of the world, and they are some of my favorite treats. Each time the chocolates arrive I have a choice to make: Do I want to share them with friends and family, or do I want to hoard them for myself?

Sometimes our sharing of Christ is treated in a similar manner. It might not be that we are hoarding Christ, but we might not be sharing because we are afraid of what others might think, or we are afraid of being made fun of, or we just do not think it will be important, or we are afraid of retribution in our places of work. We have to find new ways around these roadblocks. Is knowing Jesus important to you? Then it might be important to another person.

The reality is that we have to do more than invite folks to weekend worship services. That is a good beginning. In addition, we need to find ways to build relationships, and we have to tell our own God stories. George Barna underscored some significant insights in his research. “Just as our nation’s culture has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, so has the way in which people come to Christ,” he explained. “The weekend church service is no longer the primary mechanism for salvation decisions; only one out of every ten believers who makes a decision to follow Christ does so in a church setting or service. On the other hand, personal relationships have become even more important in evangelism, with a majority of salvation decisions coming in direct response to an invitation given by a family member or friend.”[8]

We have a choice to make. Too often, we do not consciously think of this as a choice, but rather we go about the business of our lives without offering hope in Jesus. Too often, like my chocolates, we want to hoard that hope for ourselves, or, we just do not understand the responsibility we have to share the Good News of Jesus with the nations.

Reflection: What makes you hesitant about speaking up about Jesus? Do you think this is important?

Prayer: God of All Creation: Empower me to be a sharer of blessings and not a hoarder. Sometimes we think we do not have enough, yet we know that you have blessed us to bless others. Help me to make choices that honor you. Amen.

Day 7                                      Kingdom Builders!                                        Philippians 1:27

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” NIV

A friend of mine had a good friend pass away too early in life. This 53 year old person had over 600 people show up at his funeral. Without fail, ever person attending the funeral said that the deceased had made a positive impact in their lives. That is kingdom building! Without exception, each person present said they were there because the deceased had lived a life worthy of the Gospel message.

The strange thing is, my friend never even knew he attended a church, she never knew he was a person of faith. When we live a life worthy of the Gospel message we are automatically building God’s kingdom. We are making a difference in the lives of others without even realizing what we are doing.

This has to do with how we love people. Are other people important to us? All of God’s people are important to God. How do we love them? How do we care for each other?

There are times when we are moving so fast that we do not notice people around us or interact with them. Maybe we just interact automatically or out of routine. Does this sound like you in the grocery store or at the mall? There are other times when we are so absorbed with our own issues and problems that we do not pay attention to those who are helping us.

What would it take to slow down and observe what God is doing in God’s kingdom? What would it take to be a kingdom builder and live a life worthy of the Gospel message?

Reflection: Are you a kingdom builder? What would empower you to be better at building the kingdom of God?

Prayer: God of the kingdom, I want to be a kingdom builder for you, however the very idea of sharing my story makes me very nervous. Give me courage to be your kingdom builder, and to live a life worthy of the Gospel message. Amen.

[1] Esther 4:14, NIV.

[2] https://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/196-evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids#.VQ9uT-G0DMs, accessed March 22, 2015.

[3] Genesis 4:9, NIV.

[4] Matthew 9:36, NIV.

[5] Isaiah 52:7, NIV.

[6] http://www.hartfordinstitute.org/

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/why-nobody-wants-to-go-to_b_4086016.html, accessed March 31,

2015.

[8] https://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/196-evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids#.VQ9uT-G0DMs, accessed March 22, 2015.

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