Archives for the month of: June, 2015

testimony

It is easy to be godly and pleasant and wise when things are going smoothly. But your true testimony is only evident in the dark, painful, difficult days. What you really believe shows most vividly when your reaction is godly, rather than selfish.

Last week was one of those dark, painful, difficult times for me. I said goodbye to a long time friend, who has been my prayer warrior for decades. I begged God to restore her health and preserve her life. I suggested to God that her testimony after a miraculous healing would be so powerful. But God chose to use her testimony as she died to touch the lives of all who knew her and who read her Facebook posts. Her goal was to live every day in God’s presence. Now she is.

Last week a gathering of nine godly people in the midst of Bible study was interrupted by evil. They welcomed a young man into God’s house and the study of His word. His hatred and prejudice led him to brutally murder them. In a moment, the lives of all those present, all who love them, a church congregation, and the city of Charleston were changed.

As I watched my friend accept that she would die and not live, her deep trust in God was unshaken. As I watched snippets of the sermon given at the AMEP Church in Charleston yesterday, I saw that congregation refuse to give in to the hatred and prejudice that caused rioting in similar situations in other cities. I saw the leader of their church encourage them to support what is godly and good, and defy the power of evil. In both situations, I saw those who love God choose to trust Him, even when it was painful, even when He didn’t do their bidding and they didn’t like His plan.

Because of my friend’s death, many who love God were inspired by her faith. Many who don’t know God heard her testimony. Because of the tragedy in Charleston, many saw a reflection of God’s love and forgiveness in the families and church of those who were murdered. God’s word was spoken on the evening news. I saw faithful testimonies during difficult times that gave evidence of deep faith, even when evil and death strike. My friend’s life and the response of that church glorified God.

May my response to the painful things in life be a faithful testimony that reflects my faith in my loving God, rather than my disappointment in my circumstances. May my testimony be more about my God than about my enemies.

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Switch on the Sun. Element of design.

Sometimes I get so caught up in making sure I’m doing things “right” that I’m more concerned about the process than the content. I want my efforts to look good and to be effective. God doesn’t call us to look good or be effective…he calls us to obey him and share what we know with others. He offers no tips on clever presentation or marketing strategy because his love for the world is not about selling; it is about accepting his love. He is not dependent on our ability to communicate his love to the world, but he chooses to share that process with us so that we can see a glimpse of his glory and love…in us and in the hearts of those around us.

One of my favorite sermon/testimonies in the Bible was delivered by a Samaritan woman. Jews despised Samaritans in general, and this particular woman seemed to be despised even by her own village. She went to the well when she hoped no one would be there, and Jesus was waiting for her. He looked past what she had done and saw who she was, who she could be. Her response was to leave her water jar at the well and return to the people she was trying to avoid. She told them,

John 4:39 He told me everything I ever did.

That’s it! No clever presentation, no eloquent analysis of scripture or the Roman Road to salvation. She simply told what she knew. And that made all the difference. Because she told them her story, those that had rejected her accepted the Christ that she introduced them to.

John 4:42 We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that his man really is the Savior of the world.

Are you ready for the sermon that is the catalyst for the largest mass conversion recorded in the Bible?

Jon 3:4b “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

That’s it! This pathetic, dispassionate attempt at a sermon converted 120,000 people, including the king of Nineveh. But the key to it is in verse 5. The Ninevites heard Jonah, but “they believed God”.

 One of these told people of her encounter with Jesus. The other simply repeated words that God gave him to say. Both led others to choose God for themselves. Seminaries offer courses in how to effectively preach. These two would undoubtedly be examples used in those courses of what NOT to do…but God’s ability to enter into the hearts of those who resist him isn’t dependent on presentation or how eloquently we can speak. It’s not about the packaging or the clever strategy. It may be nothing more or less than whether or not we do what we are told to do and share what we know about him. God can speak to others without us, but how amazing, how awesome it is, when the God of the universe pulls us out of the crowd and says, “You, I want you to be a part of this one.”  He doesn’t need our capabilities; he just wants to share the moment with us.

God didn’t call me to be a great theologian or evangelist. I don’t have amazing intellect or a string of impressive letters after my name. I’m not famous, and I’m very prone to mistakes and missteps. But I worship the God who is amazing, the God who is so holy and powerful that the Bible gives him many names, just trying to capture various aspects of his character and his heart. He can’t be reduced to a catchy slogan or captured in a clever strategy. His relentless pursuit of my heart has given me a story and a perspective on the amazing God who cares and loves each of us more than we are capable of completely understanding. His strength perfects my weakness. God has given me a story with him that he wants to use to touch the hearts of some others. Ultimately, it’s never about me; it’s about God. When people are impressed by clever, they admire the speaker. God doesn’t call us to build a kingdom for ourselves; he doesn’t tell us to make sure others admire us. He calls us to encourage others to know him. Lives are changed through loving God, not admiration of the messenger. God wants to use my obedience in sharing what I know to make others aware that he loves them, as well. He wants the same for and from you.

commencement 2

I think it’s about halfway between very odd and very appropriate that we call the end of high school or college commencement – a word that actually means beginning. Yesterday I attended a graduation ceremony for one of the most gifted, beautiful (inside and out!) young ladies I’ve ever known. Her childhood is over. She leaves in just over two months for college where she will begin the next phase of her life. She will take the love of an incredible family, the support of her church, her education, and a myriad of experiences with her, but her focus will be on making new friends, finding a new Christian community, learning new things, and seeking out all God has planned for a future she can’t even imagine right now.

New beginnings are like that. In order to do something new, we have to learn from our past, but move forward into what is next. How tragic it is when we are so obsessed with what is past that we can’t look forward to what is to come. We get trapped in guilt or shame, we cling so tightly to what we’ve outgrown, we wallow in regret or fear…and we miss the glory and thrill of what can be. Our hands and hearts are so full of the mess and pain of our past that we can’t take hold of our future. Maybe each of us needs to celebrate our own commencement more often.

That young woman shed a few tears at her ceremony yesterday…not because high school was finished, but because she recognized how precious that moment was. Her past has prepared her for her future. She’s in between what was and what will be.

So are you. No matter how old you are. No matter what circumstances you face. Sometimes there is a ceremony marking the milestone; sometimes there is nothing more than renewed hope for a new day.

How different would our lives, our attitudes be, if we saw each new day as our own commencement. Some days life is hard and painful, and that is why the commencement of a new day is so precious. Some days life is sweet and tender, and that is also why the commencement of a new day is so precious. What has been…is done, and it will not come again. But God doesn’t call you forward to a dead end; he calls you to new challenges, new adventures, new victories. Don’t rob yourself of what is to be by refusing to let go of what is no longer true or significant.

Jesus’ command was “Follow Me”. He goes before her and you into a future that is unimaginable today. Learn to see every ending as the beginning of something new. He’s prepared your personal “Promised Land” right here on earth and in eternity. Celebrate the endings and the beginnings. Trust the one who knows your future. Follow the one who will lead you home.

Jer 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”