Voice Recognition

In a recent conversation with a friend, I recounted a situation that left me feeling kind of yuck in my heart. Ninety-nine percent of the time, running brings a lot of joy and goodness to my world. Time to commune with the Lord, escape from the worries of the day, and work hard. But in this particular scenario, I allowed my frustration to get in the way and have a negative attitude about someone in a race. As time went by, instead of feeling content with my effort or even victorious of the outcome, I was left feeling pretty blah and embarrassed about the thoughts going through my head about this other athlete. It definitely took away from the joy of the hard work.

Most friends, when hearing this story, would brush it off and say hey, that other athlete has issues. Don’t worry about it, we all have negative thoughts. She said some pretty rude stuff in the past, anyone would think those thoughts. Shake it off.

But not this friend. She’s a wise truth-teller. She made a point of saying, ‘if you’re feeling that press on your heart, I’m not going to speak contrary to the work the Holy Spirit is doing in your life’. She asked me some really insightful questions to help me get to the root of why the Holy Spirit was working on me in this area. Multiple times I have recalled the conversation, mostly her example to allow the Holy Spirit to work, and not gloss over it, justify it, or try to absolve my conviction. There’s definitely a time to lift someone up, and there’s a time to allow the Holy Spirit’s conviction to do his work. My friend had the wisdom to know the difference, and clearly she is filled with the Holy Spirit herself.

I’m reminded of this outline I came across years ago – which helped me pray and process through different thoughts. It can be HARD to distinguish between thoughts from the Holy Spirit, my own thoughts, or even thoughts from the enemy. I love this tool to help recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit:

When we recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can continually empty our hearts and minds of other voices, and make more room for him.

Today’s reading is all about Stephen, Acts 6-7. He’s often remembered as the first martyr, stoned to death, but his testimony begins much before his stoning.

The early church was growing in size in Jerusalem and they needed to differentiate roles. Specifically, they sought out disciples that were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to coordinate the needs and sharing across the body of believers. Stephen was chosen, and recognized as a leader in the church. As the church grew and multiplied, Stephen kept showing up, with more grace and Holy Spirit power, miracles following. Fear spread across the Jewish leaders. They made false accusations against him (claiming he was going against Moses), and chapter 7 outlines Stephen’s response. Picture a courtroom setting and this is his closing statement to the Sanhedrin (the same Jewish council that sent Jesus to his death). Again, so filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom, Stephen rehearses for them how they are behaving just as their fathers did and resisting the Holy Spirit. From Abraham, to Jacob, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to David… he pointed out salvation through Christ, and their history over time of disobeying God and persecuting his prophets. Stephen’s testimony of Jesus hit them right between the eyes. Verse 55 tells us that in that moment, being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at his right hand. This enraged the Sanhedrin and they took him out and stoned him.

Because of this persecution, the church scattered, and the salvation through Jesus was brought to more parts of the world. Instead of Stephen being shut down through his death, instead his impact was multiplied! His witness of living a Holy Spirit filled life and boldly proclaiming the truth of Jesus, was the catalyst for the church growing outside of Jerusalem.

Yes, Stephen was stoned to death and the first Christian martyr. But much more than that is the life he lived, recognized for how the Holy Spirit filled him, equipped him, and strengthened him.

I can’t help but think of this hymn, All of Thee, that verse by verse shows the process of sanctification, from a life of pride and self, to a Spirit-filled life.

God, You are so faithful and abundant. Show me areas I need to surrender so I can continually be filled with the Holy Spirit. Amen


Wounded Healer

During the last couple weeks I have changed what I have wanted to write about today almost daily.  Each day all of our writers have selected such great verses to reflect on.   Similar to hearing an amazing Sunday message that seems to been written for your current circumstance.  I once again felt this after Stephanie’s testimony on Saturday.

Today, I came upon that in a message called, “Wounded Healer” which was a reminder how we make a difference in others.  The statement that struck me was, ” Our deepest wounds can often be your greatest opportunity for ministry.” As we go about this day we don’t have to hide the current hardships we are going through,  or even the ones we try to hide from the past. 1 John 1:9  I understand that as adults, teens, parents, employees, leaders, and colleagues we are suppose to have it all together according to earthly norms.  But, lets put down our guard, fears, and  worries remembering God told us that in our weakness he is strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Remember the Samaritan women who talked with Jesus at Jacob’s well in John 4, she was afraid to share her story with him, until she realized it was Jesus and He already knew everything about her. She left that well and went back to her hometown and was able to share the story of a conversation with Jesus. Her testimony changed lives.  Your testimony will too!

John 4:39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

It’s very hard to share our pains, regrets, and failures. We can be afraid that others may truly get to know us.  That we may not be as close to perfect as we try to pretend to be, or that our family goes through struggles, or maybe you were raised in a difficult environment, and that even in adult years you don’t actually have it all together even after you landed your first job. It’s Ok, I know no one is perfect, actually not even close, but we don’t have to hide.  I’ve been the master at this growing up at a young age with many things going on in our lives as a child.  (Check my ACES score). My youthful insecurities that can still appear every now and then allowed me to keep others away so they couldn’t get to know the real me.  Romans12:2 The truth is, the more I searched for God, the more I was able to see that He has always been with me.  Knowing me completely the whole time. He knows you as well! Seek the Lord always. 1 Chronicles 16:11  When we know the Lord our insecurities can come down when facing the world and we have a platform to share how God has been faithful then, and how he will be faithful now.  So this Christmas season, share the amazing story of the birth of Immanuel.  We can also share our own story without fear, and through that story you can change lives through your love and faith in our Lord. Who knows us more than anyone! He has great plans for you and your story. 

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Tauren Wells – Known

Merry Christmas Bible Journal brothers and sisters.  – Keep sharing God’s love.

Listen to the sermon on Wounded Healer by JT English from the Village Church.

Testimony 101

During Paul’s time in Israel, the law was that capital punishment was reserved for the Roman government, except for one condition. The Jewish religious leaders could execute a prisoner if the prisoner desecrated the Temple. Now Paul did not do anything to desecrate the Temple but since this was the only way to kill him they manufactured an accusation that he did.

Even though it was not the law that inviting a gentile into the temple was a capital punishment crime, their accusation that Paul had done this was a way to extended the requirements for capital punishment to Paul by association. That is, he brought a gentile into the Temple and the Gentile desecrated it so, therefore, Paul caused the Temple to be desecrated and so we can kill him. To put it simply they were out to take Paul’s life.

This is a tough situation to be in, yet Paul’s heart focused on the mob and desired to see them saved. To this end, he delivered His testimony.

And from this account we find a playbook for how he gave his testimony:

  1. He accepted the situation was from God.
  2. He created an opportunity to give his testimony. 21v37 & 40
  3. He did what he could to create common ground and win his audience.  22v1-5 &12
  4. He exalted the LORD so that if the people rejected, they were rejecting God, not him. He made it all about God, not him. 22v6-11
  5. He avoided suffering. (this was a particularly interesting point. 22v25 (The sermon below talks about how Paul didn’t have what the pastor called a ‘martyr complex’)
  6. Love governed his attitude. Throughout he was focused on what he could do for the mob.


I often listen to sermons to prepare for these posts. These 6 points are from Paul’s Arrest Part Four: the Attitude of Paul by John MacArthur

The Christmas Story Continues

Revelation chapter 12 gives us the truth about Christmas. It is about the eternal destiny of all mankind. It is about war, Satan and his angels, Michael and his angels, God, a virgin birth, a mass murder of infants by evil in high places and principalities of this world and, Praise God, Christ’s ultimate victory. But it doesn’t stop there. It is not just a historical view. It reaches forward to where we are now and where we are headed. The Christmas story continues. It helps us understand the realities of the post war world we are living in.

Often times when thinking about a past war, victors will recall images of celebration. Their post war snap shots are flooded with newspaper headlines that read “Peace!” or “It’s Over!”. These types of images often come from the victors territory and can give the victors a false sense of finality. The war may have been won but the reality may be that the victory was the beginning of the end, not the actual end. However on the other hand the losers’ dominion presents a very different picture. One that is easier to discern; the war has been won, but battles still rage and lives still hang in the balance. 

On the other side the picture will often look something like this; failed states left in ruins, void of leadership and often rampant with lawlessness. The victors have left behind remnants of their soldiers to help the failed state find their way. These soldiers are most always up against remnants of a different sort, remnants of the enemy. 

Post war, the enemy most often deploys a covert strategy. They go underground to continue the fight covertly, doing all they can undermine the victor’s agenda and to strengthen their camp. What seems to motivate them is the hope of carrying their agenda forward at some future time. Living to fight another day. History has shown us that of these sorts the worst is often the hopeless. The ones who know they will never gain the strength to ultimately win but deceive and give false hope to that end anyway. Who still refuse to let go of their agenda and determine themselves to ‘take as many with them’ to their hopeless end as possible.

The end of Revelation chapter 12 makes it clear, the War is won but not over. the battle still rages and Christians are in enemy territory. The enemy is present, powerful and hopeless. In my estimation, a Christian’s role then is that of the remnant of the victor in enemy territory post war, there to help people find their way to the right side. There to provide a beacon of truth amidst all the undercurrents of deception. There to save people from hopelessness.

Perhaps this is the gift of Christmas that Christians wield in post war enemy territory. The light that Christians have been given to shine in the shadow of deceit and through the darkness of hopelessness that the enemy works so hard to create. May your light shine this Christmas season. May your Christmas be merry and bright!


Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 25; Revelation 12; Zechariah 8; John 11

Suggestions for prayer: Ask God to help you steward the gift of Christmas well for Him. Ask Him to help you give the gift of Christmas.