a seasonal activity that most living things go through in some way or another.
• Trees shed their leaves and bark seasonally, and it’s not a sign of the plant dying but an indicator of further growth.
• Dogs also go through a season of shedding their fur, to get rid of the old, unneeded damaged or dead fur, to make room for a new coat.
• Snakes shed their skin… Humans also shed millions of skin cells every day… and the cells are constantly being renewed.
• Crabs though unlike humans, don’t have skin. They have a hard outer layer that does not grow with them. So, on the inside in preparation for shedding season, they form another shell under the surface until it’s time to break out of their old shell which contained them, into an enlarged space.
God is longing for his people to break out of the small spaces they are living in and shed the old shells containing them, IT’S SHEDDING SEASON!!
The extent to which we personally get free is the extent to which we’re able to minister freedom to others. This is a calling we all have in life, regardless of whether we have a title or position. We are called as children of God to be a people marked by freedom and ministers of freedom. This is both our inherence and our destiny.2 Corinthians 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Every living thing is conditioned to grow to the extent of the environment it lives in permits.
In the same way humanity is also conditioned by our external environments, our growth is enhanced or inhibited by the people, places, and things we surround ourselves with.Discussion Questions
Discuss how the external environment enhances or inhabits your growth:
• Where and with whom do you find yourself growing the most?
• Are there people, places or things in your life currently inhibiting your growth?
Even more important than the external environment is the internal environment we cultivate in our minds. We can easily recognise that our brains are physically contained within our skulls, we don’t often realise that our minds are mentally contained within our stories. Therefore, the habitat of our minds and the stories we habituate either enhance our growth or inhibit it.
Every single person lives within a story… the question is whether the story you’re living under is the same one that God’s speaking over you?
• Are you stuck living in a story other people have spoken over you?
• Are you stuck living in a story shaped by your experiences?
• Are you stuck living in a you keep telling yourself?
The stories we are shaped by happen unconsciously from our earliest years of formation as we grow up.
• What we’re good at and what we’re not so good at
• What we get noticed for and what gets ignored
• What gets the applause of others and what gets criticised
• What we’re capable of and what we’ll fail at
• What likeable about us and people dislike
• What parts of us to enhance and what to reject
• What enables you to belong and what causes you to be excluded
These are the first stories we learn about our identity and where we belong, long before coming to know God. Yet so often these stories are never questioned or challenged, they’re just blindly accepted as true. So although we love to say that when we become Christians ‘our identity is in Christ,’ there is actually a needed process of unlearning and breaking out of the confines of old stories so that God can create new ones.2 Corinthians 5:16-18 “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Sounds easy right? But there is a reason why most people don’t ever receive the full freedom God has for them, because the journey of inner growth and expansion is an incredibly uncomfortable and painful one. Most often before you can break out of your shell, you have to trek through the content in your life that broke you first.
The words spoken over you and the hurtful experiences you’ve gone through.
We can find ourselves repeating and rehearsing stories in our minds that sound like shame, self-doubt, fear, and hopelessness:
• E.g., “I’m not good enough… I have a small capacity… I’m not qualified enough... I’m not lovable... I’m not attractive enough... I’m invisible... If I put myself out there I’ll just get rejected again… If I speak up, I’ll just get shut down… When people really get to know me, they stop liking me… People always leave so why would I bother… This always happens to me and my family…”Discussion Questions
• What are some of the current stories that you personally rehearse in your mind?
• Where did those stories come from?
Our stories are simply trying to prevent us from experiencing the pain or hurts of the past, and reveal the places in our identity that are unhealed in our hearts and untransformed in our minds. When we understand our stories and shells like this, we can begin to inspect them with curiosity and compassion, instead of self-criticism and judgement, because we understand that they have been formed not out of truth, but out of self-protection. We can see our stories then rightly, they are not our identity, they are lies trying to contain us.
Every single one of us is susceptible to, if not already succumbed to living in stories that are formed in our minds, rather than formed by God’s story written in scripture.
We can trace the story of Jesus’ identity formation, growth, and transitions from glory to glory from Luke chapters 1-4. Beginning with his naming since conception, Luke 2:21, his destiny declared from birth, Luke 2:11, his physical and spiritual growth Luke 2:40 and Luke 2:52, his identity affirmed at his baptism before he started ministry, Luke 3:22, his testing and transition season in the wilderness, Luke 4:1-13, his return to his hometown full of the power of the Holy Spirit commissioned for ministry, Luke 4:18-21, and finally his identity questioned by those closest to him, Luke 4:22-30.
Jesus says, no prophet is accepted in his hometown. How true it can be that the ones we know most, are the ones we call out God’s glory in the least. Because we know our friends, we know our wives, our husbands and kids, and parents stories, better than most others. We see their pasts and mistakes up close. We make statements like, ‘but they never change…’ ‘they always do this…’ or ‘they never do that...” Yet when we say these things we come against the story that God declares over them, and reinforce the very shells God’s wanting them to break free of.Discussion Questions
• Are there people in your world you which you have unconsciously contained to a shell, reinforcing the way you’ve known rather than the way they have been known by God?
• What is that story God he is declaring over them?
• How can you partner with that story, by verbally and prayerfully declaring it over them in a new and intentional way?
• How can you practically give the people closest to you permission to grow and change into God’s destiny he has for them?3 Lessons from the Wilderness (Luke 4:1-13)
You are in a battle for your identity. When you’re in transition seasons about to step out of the old shell and into your destiny, other people, the enemy, and your own old thoughts will come against who you truly are. The enemy is insecure. He knows that a child of God who knows who they are is unstoppable! So the only trick he has to deter your destiny is deception, he tried in the wilderness to trick Jesus too. Each time in the battle, you can read, Jesus fought back with another story that God had already declared. Three times Jesus said, in Luke 4:4,8,12 ‘It is written, it is written, it is written.’ We need to fight back in the same way, and not settle for anything less than the truth of God’s word.
Jesus when he was alone in the wilderness, Luke 4 tells us that the enemy tried to get Jesus to prove himself and who he is. The enemy twice said, ‘if you are the son of God…’ then you’ll do X, Y, and Z to prove it to me. The person you try to prove yourself to, reveals the person in whom you’ve put your identity. Only when we don’t fully trust God’s word about us, we’ll spend our time trying to prove our identity, worth, and value before others. But ironically and beautifully the very one who we receive our identity, worth and value from, is the only one we don’t have to prove ourselves to.
If you’ve truly won the battle of your identity in the mind, it will not hold any power over you in the heart. In other words, only the word’s which have the power to hurt you, are the ones you already believe about yourself. There comes a point in everyone’s life, that we must stop shifting the blame upon other people containing you, and take responsibility for fighting the battle for our own personal freedom alone with God.Discussion Questions
• What are some of the lies spoken by others, by the enemy or by voices in your own mind, that you have believed?
• Who are the people you are trying to prove yourself to?
• What are the unhealed parts of your heart and the untransformed parts of your mind that God is wanting to bring freedom to?
The process of forgiving others is vitally important for our journey towards your freedom, life tracks 3 is a great next step to walk through further healing, wholeness, and freedom.Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Why does our mind need renewal? Because God knows our mind can’t on its own regenerate a new story, it just likes to replay old ones. So, he gives us another alternate story in his word. God’s Story Spoken Over You, is often relayed to us through other biblical characters, but applicable and consistent with the way he sees you and I. The story God speaks over your life, has no correlation to your current story, or the way others see you, what others say about you, or what your experiences have had.
• Before your conception you were known, named and called by God
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Spoken over the Prophet Jeremiah)
Galatians 1:15-16 “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles.” (Spoken over the Apostle Paul)
• God who created you declares you his masterpiece
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
• God has redeemed you and your story
Isaiah 43:1-3 “This is what the Lord says – he who created you Jacob, he who formed you Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Spoken over God’s chosen nation Israel)
Scripture is filled with page after page after page affirming that a better story exists than the ones we often settle for living in. A story he speaks over you and is also inviting you into.
Pray in small groups for people to have the courage to break out of their shell of their stories.