By Pat Russell
Considering the sermon by Pastor Bruce on August 16, 2020
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. Philippians 3: 4-6
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Galatians 1:13-14
Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city." Acts 21:39
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished." Acts 22:3-5
“The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee." Acts 26:4-5
Today as Pastor Bruce spoke about Paul’s history, I was impressed with a couple of thoughts:
- No matter how “bad” or “good” a personal
history is, God is able to take the past and make something of worth in
the present. He does not waste
anything in our lives!
- Paul was so very willing to acknowledge all that he was and did in his past in order to help those he was around in the present to grow in their faith walk. He was vulnerable about the “bad” and the “good.” He knew that God sooo loved him in it all!
So, today, I thought it would be good for us to take stock of our past – all that it was and how it continues to be a part of lives. Donna and Frank did a bit of that today as they reflected on their music history and on Donna’s dad. Probably you were as moved as I was to hear their vulnerability while sharing.
Dallas Willard in his wonderful book entitled, Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23, says, “In either case [thinking about our parents or our children and I add ourselves] we begin by asking God to help us delight in them, focus on what is good for them [I would add, FROM them for us in these days], and celebrate what is valuable within them. This may involve going back in our memories, and saying, ‘Lord, help me to remember the good.’ Because it may be that things have been so bad that you are unable to see anything good or valuable. No one is only an unvarnished lump of bad. We must seek to see them, to relate to them as it is appropriate and good.”
Here are some questions to aid in your review of your personal history:
- What are the hurts that
still linger in your thoughts and feelings? I suggest holding them up to God by
actually cupping your hands in prayer.
- What are the places of
shame that come to mind about your past?
I suggest taking your cupped hands filled with those thoughts and
turning them over in prayer as you lay them in Jesus hands.
- What are the gifts that
you have received from your past? I
suggest holding your gifts up to God by raising your hands in praise and
- Now, how do you see God
using your hurts, your shame, your gifts in your present life for
good? Read Romans 8:28 out loud
“with Paul”: “We know that all
things work together for good for those who love God, who are called
according to his purpose.”
- Lastly, remembering Paul’s and Savanah Guthrie’s vulnerability, consider sharing with someone you trust, what went on in your thoughts and feeling and prayers today. Or, ask them to listen to your as you reflect on these questions. Then, pray together.
May the Lord bless you today with holy remembering.