Archives for posts with tag: testimony

god-in-a-boxI like to keep my house tidy and well organized. If I can’t have clean, I can usually find peace with hiding the clutter. If I don’t have to look at the messy, irrational parts, I can pretend that they are not there. I can find comfort in considering only what I allow myself to see. I can define my surroundings with the appearance that I am in control.

Sometimes we try to do the same thing with God. We want enough of His presence to give blessing to our plans. We are so comfortable with our expectations and opinions and comfort zone that we assume He agrees us. We don’t actually want His input, unless it reinforces what we want to believe. We make decisions and assumptions on what is good and right, and then we require that God bless them.

Surely God agrees with me! Surely God likes the things I like and dislikes the things I don’t! Surely God recognizes the wisdom of my perspective! But what if He doesn’t? What if God is less interested in my opinion than in my testimony? What if my self-righteous indignation is more “self” than “righteous”? What if God is more concerned about the people I alienate, than in the validity of my perspective or personal choices? What if God wants me to represent His love, rather than put me in charge of straightening out those who think differently than I do? What if God wants to do a new thing or an old thing in a new way? What if God wants me to obey Him, and I want Him to obey me…and just stay inside the tidy box I build for Him?

The most cursory reading of the Bible reveals a God who is unpredictable. He doesn’t have a set response that applies in all situations to all people. He may deliver his people from their fears, or He may walk them through their fear to a deeper trust. He may destroy their enemies, or He may use the testimony of His people to change the hearts of their enemies. He may reveal His power, or He may give power to those who choose to obey.

The Bible also reveals a God who is always in control, even when he allows things His children don’t like. His goal is not to make us comfortable or content; His goal is to reveal His glory and increase our holiness. His goal is that all peoples know Him. What happens when we claim to represent God, but our words and behavior come from our own need to be right, rather than the love and righteousness and power of God?

Putting God in a box may mean that we separate ourselves from Him. Insisting that God confine Himself to our expectations may mean that our testimony to those watching us includes nothing more than our own preferences. Worshipping the God who will not stay in the box requires that we see Him as He is, not as who we’d like Him to be. Loving those around you may not include browbeating those around you into agreeing with you. There is no trust required for the things you can control. Faith kicks in when we remember that He is God and we are not, especially when He destroys the box and works in our world in ways we don’t like or don’t understand. Our job is not to draw boundaries for Him; our job is to honor the boundaries He draws for us.

How do you respond when God doesn’t confine Himself to what you think is right? Do you assume He isn’t in charge? Do you appoint yourself as judge and jury over those who see things differently than you do? Does your testimony give evidence of love or of condemnation? Do you give God the space to work His will in ways you didn’t expect? Are you mindful of how you represent Him to those around you, or are you more interested in proving that you are right and those who disagree with you are wrong?

May we seek His will, not our own. And may our faith in His power be manifested in our testimony.

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.  

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waiting room

Some fidgeted nervously. Some slept. Some tried to engage anyone who would listen in mindless conversation. Some distracted themselves with a book or their computer. Some prepared coffee they didn’t drink or stared at the hands of the clock that seemed to be moving way too slowly. All were waiting.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to sit in a waiting room. I always bring work with me because I can’t stand to just do nothing. I sometimes get irritated because the person I’m “waiting” to see doesn’t seem to value my time as much as they expect me to value theirs.

Prayer can be like that. We finally acknowledge God’s presence and we want his undivided attention and immediate response on our schedule. We share our plans and hopes and fears…and then we want action.

I am a task oriented person who typically sees waiting as a waste of my time. But what if the span of time between my prayers and God’s answers is purposeful? What if there are some things I need to learn before His answer will make sense? What if God is working out details in someone else’s life that are part of my answer? What if God wants to use my situation to teach me to depend on Him, to trust His judgment, to have greater confidence in His ability than I do in mine? Do I trust God enough to wait patiently…or do I fidget and manipulate to get the answer I want? Do I trust God’s authority…or do I seek the advice and counsel of anyone who will listen? Do I look for his reassurance and evidence that He is at work…or do I just “do time” until I can move on to my next heavenly request? Is my faith in Him, or in my frantic preparation and activity?

I have loved ones that are waiting for results of medical tests. I have precious friends that are waiting for job offers. There are things in my life that I have done everything I know to do to prepare for…and now I must wait for the details to work themselves out. My frustration in the details that seem to hinder me indicates that I don’t trust God to work all things out for my good.

God is not just in the request and the answer itself. God is in the waiting. What if God wants me to watch him at work and be strengthened in my faith? What if God has an answer that is way better than my request? What if God wants my wait time to be a testimony to those who are watching me? What if God is more interested in spending time with me than he is accomplishing my “to do” list?

God told Moses that his name is “I AM”. Present tense. Not past…not future. Regardless of whatever is weighing on your mind and heart today, find peace and joy in the God who patiently waits for you to seek him, to trust him with the details of your day and your life. Just because you don’t see evidence of God’s activity doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Expect his presence. Eagerly anticipate a fresh vision of his power. Place your confident hope in the God who loves you and who leads you forward, one step at a time, until all things are accomplished.

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.

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.

What are you so afraid of that it threatens your ability to trust God? It is easy to trust God with things that don’t matter so much. But when we face the big crises, the events that can break our hearts or destroy our dreams, the things that can alter the course of our plans or impact the rest of our lives – those threats often make the size of our fear seem so much bigger than the power of our God. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, death of a loved one, loss of independence, loss of income, threat of physical harm – these are just a few of the things my Sunday School class listed as their biggest fears. How we respond to those big threats indicates what we believe about God.

 Your most powerful testimony will not come from the days where all goes well, when you consistently get your way, when happiness is easy. The strength of your faith is best displayed in how you handle adversity. Anyone can be nice when they are not challenged; God’s power is most evident when we depend on him and show his character and love, rather than default to our own anger, frustration, and fear.

 But the tricky part is to know what God wants us to do because “fight”, “flight” and “trust” are all examples of godly approaches to threat. To Gideon he said, “Go forth in the strength that you have.” (Jud 6:14) When the crowd threatened to throw Jesus over the cliff, Jesus left. (Luke 4:30) When the Hebrews were pinned between drowning in the Red Sea and certain destruction of the Egyptian army, God said, “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Ex 14:4)  

When Elijah heard Jezebel’s threat to kill him, he ran, a day’s journey into a wilderness 100 miles away. There is no evidence he prayed; his “field trip” was apparently his own idea. When he got there, God made sure he was fed and rested, but then God asked, “What are you doing here?” In I Kings 19 God sent a wind, an earthquake, and a fire to the mountain, but Elijah knew that God wasn’t in those. However, when Elijah heard the still small voice, he knew God was speaking.

 How did he know? How did he sort out the events he saw and the events he feared from God’s word? God didn’t change Elijah’s circumstances; he didn’t guarantee protection from Jezebel, and he didn’t reprimand him for his lack of faith in the face of his fear. God just gave him specific instructions for what was to come next.

 What does your obedience to God look like in regard to the things you fear right now? To take an unpopular, difficult stand? To withdraw or run away? To trust him to bring his will? Sincerely ask God to make your path clear, even (and especially) if it’s a path you don’t want to take. Ask him to give you the strength and courage to obey his will, rather than insisting that he adopt your plan. Be quiet enough to hear his still, small voice. Lean in to his presence and his word to see how your current circumstances can become your future testimony. Trust the one who knows the future to lead you forward in obedience.


For years I’ve prayed that God would raise up godly people – in our government, our media, our entertainment, and our educational institutions. That he would give them his wisdom and his power, and that when they have the courage to rise up and make him known, he would give them his protection. Sometimes I read the headlines or see the evening news and wonder if he’s heard me. Last night, in his great mercy, he let me see just a glimpse of his answer.

While I was praying, God raised up writers and directors and producers and actors that were willing to leave the Hollywood “box” and make a movie that didn’t depend on special effects or crude humor; it didn’t use bad language or insert gratuitous sex scenes. It was the simple story of a few people in one college town who were trying to figure out their faith in God. It was captivating in its depth and honesty.

If you haven’t seen the movie God’s not Dead, see it. If you have, encourage others to see it and take the challenge to share what you know about God. You don’t have to have deep philosophical understanding or theological analysis; most of the time, people don’t need that. Most need to start with the conviction that there is a God, that he unconditionally loves them, and that their “here and now” and their eternity depend on whether or not they believe it. Your testimony is no more or less than what you already know.

One of the first lines of the movie that grabbed my attention was spoken by a young college freshman being encouraged to renounce his belief in God. He spoke of his faith saying, “It’s not easy, but it is simple.” And we get that wrong. We insist on easy, and we make it complicated. We take a loving God and try to fit him into a theology box that is predictable and controllable. We want minimal effort on our part to produce maximum blessing from God. We are less interested in the truth than we are in getting our way.

For years I prayed and had no idea what God and the makers of this movie were up to. God calls us to pray for his will to be done, but he doesn’t necessarily show us the process. God certainly didn’t owe me proof that he was listening, but that “proof” let me see the tender mercy of the one who is leading me into deeper relationship with him while he is making himself known in the world. I will continue to pray that God raises up those who will use their voice in this generation to speak truth, to point people toward God.

Those prayers, that process, are not easy. They will invoke the repudiation of a hostile media or a cynical public. They will anger Satan who doesn’t want us to see or know the truth about a loving God. But that prayer is simple. God’s way, God’s will, God’s timing – not mine. Characters in the movie encountered obstacles and fear that led them to deeper understanding of the character of God. May our prayers give us the vision to see God beyond our obstacles and fear, and may our faith lead us to deeper understanding of the character of God. And may we share what we learn as God answers our prayers.

Called to Speak

Doing good deeds is not the same as serving God. Having compassion and the commitment to serve is not limited to Christians. Even people who do not believe in God do good things. They help raise money or go to areas devastated by war or natural disaster and serve the needs of people in trouble. They invest their personal time and wealth in the educational and health and safety needs of those in crisis all over the world. But the motive of their service is personal preference and agenda, not obedient service to God. Good things become godly things only when they are a result man’s obedience to God. Our service must be accompanied by our continual effort to acknowledge God as the source of any good we do and to lead others to him.

Jesus met the physical needs of those who came to him. He fed and healed and cast out demons, but then he taught them about God’s love and forgiveness. He did not use his power or authority to build a fan club. He didn’t dole out miracles to those he liked the best. He used who he was and what power he had to bless those God put in his path and make sure those people knew that the purpose for his service was his love for them and his obedience to God. If our service to others is not grounded in our relationship with God, then we are not serving him by doing those things. Whatever your service looks like, the ultimate purpose of your service to others should always be to lead them to God.

Our service should always be accompanied by our testimony. God doesn’t call all of us to explain complicated theology or preach or even teach; he does expect us to tell what we do know and have experienced in our relationship with him. We, as Christians who know even just a glimpse of the goodness and power of God, have good news that most of the rest of the world either ignores or doesn’t believe. Once God’s word takes root in our hearts and begins to grow, we find healing and protection and power in God’s word that ought to be so exciting that we just can’t stop talking about it.

When you serve God, you will get a story. Your story may include acknowledgment that your victory in a hopeless situation came clearly from God. It may be testimony of his presence throughout a crisis or protection in the face of great odds. It may be an answer to a prayer or tangible evidence that he has heard your prayer. It may be an awareness that God has knit seemingly unrelated parts of your life into what he is now calling you to do. Your testimony may be as simple as “I know that God loves me and led me to serve you”. It may be that simple, but it will never be more profound. Of all the things we speak, “God loves you” is the most important. God may ask you to tell the stories of the people in the Bible who had an encounter or an adventure with God, but their stories will not sustain you during your times of doubt and crisis. Your story will increase your faith, and your story will have meaning to the one you serve.

We love stories. Children ask to be told stories and make up their own. Families rehearse the stories of their lives at reunions. “Once upon a time” and “Remember the time when” can help us rise above the mundane and enter the life of a princess or a hero, or it can remind us of our connection to each other.

The stories of our relationship with God give us perspective on our future, but they also can encourage or inspire others who are struggling with similar things. Those of us who have any experience with God can speak hope and healing and direction into the lives of those who do not know God. If you have believed and followed and known and loved and served God, you must tell those you serve what you know. Those you serve may admire your passion or your conviction, but if you don’t speak to them about God, they may never know the same healing and hope that has saved you.

John 8:28 So Jesus said, “…I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.

May God give us opportunity and courage to share what we know with those who need to hear.

What do you know?

Luke 2:9-14 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

I have to admit that I was disappointed when someone pointed out to me that the verb in this passage is “say”, not “sing”. One of the things I want to do in heaven is to hear the angel choir. I expect there will be clarity and harmony far superior to any we hear on earth. I suspect on that night, their voices were easily distinguishable from human voices. But it is what they said that makes all the difference.

They did not recount biblical history or give in depth analysis of God’s character or plan. They did not present the plan of salvation or explain how this event would expand modern theology. There was no sermon, no grand presentation of complicated doctrine. There wasn’t even a command! One angel came and made a simple announcement, and then suddenly a bunch of other angels appeared and praised God.

I wonder if the angels were there all along, but just let Gabriel make the announcement before they showed themselves. I wonder what the voices of the angels sounded like. When they left the shepherds where did they go? Back to heaven? Back to the manger? Did they watch over the shepherds as they traveled? Whatever the angels did next is not part of the story. Their job that night was simply to tell the facts to people who needed to choose for themselves how they would respond. They shared information and an invitation that glorified God and brought joy to his people.

We are not the same as angels, but God commands the same sharing from us. Too often we refuse to tell what we know about God because we think we’re not smart enough or that we might make the person we’re talking to uncomfortable. We keep what we know to ourselves out of fear of rejection or self-doubt or laziness.

We live in a world that is lost. Each of us knows people that are hopeless, desperate, sad, despairing. If you were dying and I had the medicine to heal you in my pocket, but refused to give it to you, I would be cruel and heartless and evil. There is something innate in humans that requires us to share what would improve the lot of others.

What do you know about God? What have you learned about him? Who in your life needs to hear what you know? God may not call you to be a great preacher or teacher or healer, but he does command that each of us go to a world that does not know him and tell what we do know about him. God’s word is more precious to me with each passing day. I love its stories, but those stories are not my story. I learn about myself from its stories, but it is my story that gives me passion. It is my story that I can share with authority. It is my story that has given the faith to trust God for the next step. I’m not a great preacher like Billy Graham or a merciful caregiver like Mother Theresa. God has given me a different story. In the Bible stories and in my stories the awesome moments when God shows himself are those times when his people are incapable of saving themselves. In those moments where we have no power or control, we see God in action.

It is inconceivable to me that God would send angels to find shepherds to invite to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. It is equally inconceivable that God seeks us individually to teach us about himself. When he makes himself known to us, our only obedient response is to share what we’ve learned about him.

God wants us to have a story with him. That’s what happens in relationship. Sharing life and fellowship gives you a common history and understanding of that person. Your testimony about God doesn’t have to explain or preach. The angels just told what they knew to be true. Your response should be the same. May your willingness to tell what you know about God lead others to seek him and cause them to praise him.