Posts Tagged ‘testimony’

faith2Here’s a good question. In the face of someone who knows does not know much about Christianity, how would you share the gospel of Jesus Christ?

My answer has been the same for some time. I simply tell my own story, my “testimony” as they say. Because I was just like the person to whom I am speaking, in one way or another, at one time or another. I did not come out of my childhood and into my teens as a saint. I was narcissistic and self-absorbed. The world revolved around me, so much so that I married at 18 and divorced five years later to pursue a career in the theater. My world, my dream, my everything. The story goes on, too long for a post/homework but needless to say, it’s interesting how God breaks through the fog, even we don’t recognize it as fog. I came to faith through the Word of God, through reading the Bible and asking a lot of questions. I tested for truth and certainty in my soul. I have followed the Christ ever since. I am alive today because of that surrender.

But, I did not have opportunity to tell my story this week.

Nor do I consider this a strategy or a plan or a way of delivering the message. Effectiveness for the listener is not based on my delivery.

The message of the Christ, promised to the Jews for centuries as the Messiah, is all about redemption, about relationship to God and how that relationship works. Back then, it was about substitution and blood sacrifice. In the time of Christ, it was also blood sacrifice, but once for all eternity, in a space that has no time.

The conversations in the Hillsong class have given me a desire to dig again into the Bible and to seek understanding of the patterns and context in a way that I never have before. I am grateful, however, that my first introduction to the things of God was from the Bible and as a result, I have read through it many times. I am familiar with the stories, the essence of Scripture, but not enough about the pieces that bring vibrancy and connections.

I am feeling solid in my faith which is really important in today’s political climate in which believers, wrapped in Christ, yet still at odds with one another and often in a very unloving and ugly way.

” . . . I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” II Tim 1:12b

In a way, it is a pattern in my own life that I cannot seem to shake, or perhaps I am not intended to do so. I am the daughter of immigrants and I did everything I could to “fit in” and be All-American. Yet I never really succeeded. I was never quite American enough, but on the flip side, never quite Latvian enough either. I wasn’t protecting and preserving my heritage enough. In college, I was in a sorority, accepted but only to a degree, I simply could not balance the game of wealth and privilege no matter how hard I tried. And in college, by marrying young, I ostracized myself from my single friends. Eventually, I ended up in New York for acting school, thinking I would finally really belong, but even there, one foot in and one foot out. When I had my conversion experience, I felt the divide even further. How could I be a believer and creative artist? Back then, there were no avenues for that.

The longer I was a Christian, the more I tried to walk and talk the way I thought I should, the well-spoken yet conservative believer who “loved the person but not the sin,” and who carried her faith as a badge on her sleeve. I was on the inside now, I thought. I knew all the phrases, I knew all the leaders, I knew all the praise songs, I even knew how to speak in tongues. I had arrived.

But that secure space began to crumble over the years. I grew tired of editing my words (for all along, I was) and not mentioning that I enjoyed reading books that others in that world found objectionable (even demonic) or listen to music that had a beat, or go to movies not on the accepted list.

Then I went into faith-based counseling and discovered the depth and power of forgiveness & breaking strongholds of all kinds. I found beauty in other church traditions. I experienced liturgy. I found I had been in a microcosm of Christianity and not the Church universal.

I began hearing other voices like Rob Bell, Phyllis Tickle, and Brian McLaren. I read about the Emergent Church, and Progressive Christianity and Post-Modernism. It was all so freeing and interesting and I reveled in the hashtag, #LoveWins.

But of course, I didn’t quite fit there, not 100%. Lo and behold, I was back in the middle. I loved and respected many of my more conservative Christian friends but I also loved my progressive ones. In any case, I was pulled slowly but surely out of the Christian Right.

I realize now that this series of classes is nudging me to fill in my theology. To not worry about fitting in or being in or anything like that.

I am an amalgam.

I am politically left leaning (especially now in this Donald Trump era); I am thoroughly grounded in my love of God and Christ and the atonement; I am surrendered to a sovereign God who can break through and “save” whomever and whenever God so pleases; I am learning to love and be content with my now, given by God to me (both the sorrow and the joy); and I am not going to assume that I know God’s intentions for others who are “not like me.” I will lose validity with some people of faith and I will lose some validity with activists. But I will stand.


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Another translation has “bond-servant of God,” or one who is bound to service without a promise of recompense or compensation. Too often, people serve their gods with an expectation of a result, an ROI (return on investment). Doesn’t work that way.

Titus 1:1
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—

There are promises from God for the elect (those who follow and serve), but those promises are on God’s terms, not ours. All things come through grace, therefore, whatever is given is a gift and not deserved in some way, no matter how “good” we are, how righteously we behave, how pious.

In Paul’s case, he defines himself as one of these bond-servants but also as an apostle, a messenger, expected to share the knowledge of the Christ imparted to him or her. Not everyone is an apostle. And yet, if we believe, as I do, that Christ is the long-awaited Messiah, then I am to tell my story (to testify). This is not about insisting that my story is better than your story. I tell because my life changed and the course I was on in my late twenties developed an unexpected fork in the road and I was able to choose a different way.

Some people, particularly Christians, forget that they have dual responsibilities. They might jump in with both feet into the messenger business, in the name of Christ, but often they forget their agreement to bonded service to God. There are some who serve God but have not recognized the Messiah part of their journey.

We have both identities and both roles, like in a family, I am a mother and a wife; in my job, I am both a librarian and a manager; in the Church, I am both a penitent and a teacher. Each role is served by the other, each task made richer by the other.

Let me be mindful of all of my dual roles today and in particular, by service to God and my message on behalf of the Christ.

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Words are compelling. They can change someone’s mind or lock in a point of view; they can soothe or they can motivate to action; they can break a heart or heal. Words create and words destroy. Depending on the wielder of those words and the interpreters, meaning can go either way.

I Timothy 6:4b-5a
“. . . He [one against the message of the Christ] has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men, . . . ”

Currently, there is quite the controversy over the book, Love Wins, by Rob Bell. Perhaps by now, a few of the attackers of this book have actually read it, but I have a feeling that their minds are made up about the author and will read into those words what they believe are true. In response, they have added more words that are even more controversial, like heretic and apostate and “universalist.” These words are highly charged and challenge anyone who might want to agree with Rob Bell’s proposition as being in equal danger. Each day, I google Rob’s name and his book to find additional essays and points of view. Today, I discovered a well crafted essay from Richard J. Mouw, the President of Fuller Theology, who called Bell’s book one of salvific generosity or a generous orthodoxy, a term popularized by Brian McLaren some years ago (also a controversial author).

And so the battles rage about words and more words. Some are determined to “protect the faith” and some are equally determined to take grace to its limits, expanding the faith.

I am not a theologian nor do I have any authority to speak either way really, except by personal experience. I have written about my mother before who died at 91, in full dementia, and after a long life of mental instability, bitterness, and hardness of heart. But, when it came time for the end of her life, love was there and she had a specific experience of seeing the Christ. How could that be? How could God break through that cloud of confusion? Because, love can win. That love came through me, my husband, my children, my church family, my friends, and my neighbors. That love was three-dimensional, yes, but I believe it was also supernatural.

There is potential for recognition of the Way at any point in a life. We will never know.

When I give my own testimony of how God reached into my own soul, I am always reminded that several people who had known me before my revelation would say, “You? You are a Christian? You are LAST person I would think would ever do that.” And so it was, that I was the last person, like the woman who washed Jesus’s hair with her tears. And so, among the terrorists and killers, the child molesters and liars, the idolaters and the prisoners, I am there too. We are all among the last. And what words are there for us?

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From cupids to angels floating over the beds of children, I think our culture has made angels into Tinkerbell. Nothing could be farther from the truth if angels were involved in “putting the law into effect.” These messenger/warriors work directly with God’s anointed on Earth. They are formidable.

Galatians 3:19
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.

I have a friend who believes she saw an angel in her house while she was in prayerful intercession for her adopted toddler who was being pulled from their family and returned to his bio-father. She said the angel was more male than not, but also gender neutral. The angel was tall and barely fit in her dining room. He stood in what she interpreted as warrior regalia, including a sword. He stood as a though he were a guardian. He stood watch. At the time, she thought the angel was a sign and they would keep their son, but that was not the case. Apparently, there was some other danger in this situation. And although this was one of the most devastating circumstance, she experienced the power of angelic presence.

Apparently, angels do not just appear to anyone. They are God’s worker bees and they have purpose. They are sent. They interact with humans as needed. Angels cannot be prayed to or called upon.

I’m thinking that people who think they have had experiences or manifestations on earth with Christ or the Holy Spirit, may have actually had contact with an angel.

I have never seen an angel. But I have known people who I believe are mediators, who are totally submitted to the spirit of Christ, who have, indeed, been touched by angels.

What about you? Do you have a story?

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Generosity is an expression of thanks to God. When I give to someone in need, that act of giving, in itself, is thanking God — for my having enough to give. And if this is true, what I am I saying when I don’t give?

II Corinthians 9:12
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

I have put too much focus on the traditional acts of thanksgiving: saying prayers at meals, lifting my hands in church, saying the Lord’s prayer each day, giving thanks when I have a close call in a car. But I haven’t considered my actions as a form of thanks. I haven’t thought of loving others as a form of thanks.

There is a description of our relationships being like a cross, the vertical is our relationship with God and the horizontal is our relationship with others. And although I have seen and know that my vertical relationship with God enhances my ability to love others. But I had never considered the opposite. My outpouring of self into others touches God by confirming my trust and faith in His ability to keep me full.

That’s the idea of it anyway.

Instead, I see my fears block my giving. I’m not just talking about money either. Of course, this is included. And I do fear the loss of security that money provides. But I am placing my hope for security in the wrong place. It’s a habit from my own poverty growing up in the inner city.

I am grateful for my comforts. I do thank God verbally each day for the abundance in which we live. And yet, today, I am confronted with a greater truth: give thanks by letting go. Build faith. Build trust. Give out of the abundance.

And, in the circle of generosity, it all comes back again.

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Acts 12:18
After Herod had a thorough search made for him [Peter] and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

These four guys were the extras. You know, as in one of those huge lavish movies, there are tons of extras. They are nameless and virtually faceless. They have some small task and that is all. They get their one minute of screen time and that’s it.

These four guards are no different. This was their time and in the end, they are memorialized … they are to be remembered that they lost their lives in exchange for Peter’s freedom.

If I allowed free reign to my imagination, I could create entire families and scenarios for these guys. They had lives that were lived outside the prison walls of Herod’s fortress. Perhaps one was older, whose children were grown or another was a new recruit, given a special assignment.

What happened when they discovered Peter was missing? There were two on each side of Peter and two outside the locked cell door. The angel of light came, opened Peter’s shackles, told him to rise and dress and they walked out the door What were the guards doing? Surely they were not asleep. Were they mesmerized? Were they put into an unnatural trance? It was not until morning that the alarm sounded. What were they doing? Did they know sooner? Did they know that there death would come the next day?

I can’t help but consider that these guards, like the guards at Golgotha, may have come to a realization. This was a miracle and it was worked on behalf of a follower of Christ. Perhaps they became believers and died, not as executed guards, but as martyrs. Who knows? Perhaps their testimony at the cross examination to the miracle of Peter’s release was Herod’s last opportunity to accept Christ. Herod did not change.

What role will we play when it is our time? Can we trust God with our last moments… with our lives… with our deaths?

These men had a testimony. And their stories probably flew through Herod’s soldiers and servants. These guards were good, reliable men. And all four were witnesses to a miracle. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, their deaths did make a difference.

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John 3:33
The man [or woman] who has accepted it [his testimony] has certified that God is truthful.

Everyone has a story but until it is heard or accepted, it has no power. This is true for anything we hear, including gossip, television news, blog postings, sermons, chit-chat, memories, songs, entertainment, explanations and so on. It is really just a story until we integrate it into ourselves. There is a point of choice with everything we hear. We can accept the story and thereby validate it within or we can reject it. Once it is is integrated, it becomes our truth.

Unfortunately, we also fall prey to habit. We often accept a story as true without giving it much thought. Or, sometimes, we accept what we hear as true simply because of the source. The source may not always be authoritative, but we don’t like to question or investigate its authority. That takes effort and may shake up our norms.

One of the best tools I received from acting school was to ask questions of a story: both in speech and text. What does this mean? What are all the possibilities? How do I interpret these words? Why does this story touch me so deeply? What do I fear? Why do I care? Does this story resonant with me? Why? Who is telling this story? What is the point of this story?

Jesus told many stories. He told stories to teach concepts and he told stories to prepare fallow ground for truth. He told stories to break down barriers and he told stories to reveal himself to others. He told stories to explore the meanings of words like “kingdom of God” and “eternal life” and “forgiveness.” He told stories to explain his purpose on earth. He told stories to explain his identity.

It is possible to go through life and never accept or integrate Jesus story into our lives. But that did not happen to me. I decided 30 years ago to accept the stories that are recorded about Jesus and his message. I believe Jesus is who he says he is. I believe Jesus spoke true….both then and now.

As a result, my story is an expression of his story within me…. just as his story is an expression of God within him. This does not mean that I have stopped asking questions. In fact, if anything, I am asking more than ever. And His story prevails.

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