What gives you a testimony–and why do you consider it worth sharing with me?

Have you ever wondered what people mean when they say they have a testimony? You may think, How could believing in Jesus–an ancient Jewish rabbi–give you a testimony–especially since you’re better off than He is…being alive and all? That’s a good question, my friend.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, testimonies are not glossed over sales-pitches for a religious conversion scheme. We have more to our testimonies to communicate than that. We want you to hear what God’s done because it has made a difference. We want to share with you the doubts we came into this journey with and how they have one-by-one been laid to rest.

Not all of it is going to make sense to you–we know this because it didn’t make sense to us in the beginning either. We experts on what we speak about, so you needn’t feel intimidated. We just want to share the little of what we understand concerning monumental and infinite things. We want to introduce you to the One Who exposed us to Truth greater than anything we ever dreamed of so that you will not miss the opportunity to see things for how they really are–both now and in eternity. This is the greatest gift we can give you, and we don’t want to be lax in extending it. We only have something to give you because we have received it first ourselves.

That’s all. Now, if you’d like to hear a really good one, go ask that friend of yours who doesn’t seem to make any sense because they’re now “born-again.” Find out what happened to bring the change; and, perhaps in the process, you’ll learn why you’ve been thinking so negatively of the change. Maybe they really are better off than they were to begin with…and maybe you will be too!

 

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Heart-valve adjusting and other things I trust God for…

When I wake up in the morning I like to say good morning to God. It’s not that He needs me to say anything to Him, it’s that I need to say something to Him. I have a depressed day if I’m not talking to Him. If I’ve avoided or neglected Him all day, I end up looking back, ask myself, “What was that all about? What was the point?”

How can you live a life that’s all about Jesus without it being all about Jesus?

I don’t know. But I sure have tried. And one thing I’ve learned through the trying (and failing) is that only Jesus can make it all about Himself for me. I really don’t know where to start on that because it’s impossible for me to finish up on it being all about me.

You see, that program is so lodged deeply inside me that the thought of me disengaging it is ridiculous! I don’t know how to shut if off because every operation inside of me is a direct result of it.

Somehow God’s got to get me off this system and on to another one. It’s just that simple…and just that impossible if it’s up to me. But praise God it isn’t.

It’s impossible for me because it is a job that He was meant to do and only He has the equipment to do it. I don’t have the ability to turn off my internal motivators. And even if I could, it wouldn’t do me any good because I then wouldn’t be able to transport myself to another spirit pump. It just wouldn’t happen.

So, praise God He turns off the valves that connect me to one pump and fastens me to another. I just need to trust the Master’s hands. When it comes to my heart and the handling of valves through which life-support is supposed to pump, I have no other hope.

So you like Love, do you?

Love is trumpeted the world over as the ideal/emotion most capable of inspiring mankind. It is a gift, and the most fulfilling reality we know on this earth.

But, what about when love comes to us disguised? When we don’t immediately recognize it in its initial form, we often give no thought to immediately turning away from it.

How little we know of all the ways we run from love! We claim to be enamored with it, but act in ways that compromise our commitment to experiencing the real thing.

The Son of God came to us in the form of a lowly servant — a man without a face or physique that we should recognize as glorious. His manner was also unlike anything our world or we can boast.

He did not come to show that God has finally came around to our way of thinking, or impress us with His willingness to negotiate a mutually agreeable arrangement for peace. He will not compromise His law, or bow down His character to us. His aim is so far above submitting Himself to our expectations of God — including displays of obsequious love and undying respect for our demands.

Rather, He has done us the greatest service imaginable in entering into our mess and treating us like what we are: people broken and beaten by our rebellion against God.  He sees that we are separated from Him by our own self-destructing choices, and He has come to reveal the choice that He has made to deliver us from them. It is the choice that has the power to save and change our lives.

The rescue, and subsequent transformation, of our hearts is the key to lives that may be lived to the full, unlimited by death.

But how many of us truly know about these dynamics? We know plenty about changing our lives, and altering our behavior, but what have we ever experienced of heart-alteration?

To tell you the truth, we have and will not know until we have known Jesus Christ who alone is capable of making such a difference in us.

If we do not know Christ according to experiential and spiritual knowledge that transcends merely amassing information about Him, we will never truly know what any of this means.

How many of us walk away from the chance to be forever changed, because God didn’t garb Himself in ambitions that naturally align with our own.

He did not come near to us, to pleasantly assure us that all our problems can be easily cleared up because they are entirely external. He is not here to agree with us that there is nothing inherently wrong with us or how we approach God. What could be the ultimate gain for us in this? How would this glorify Him?

A Being who would not dare to defy our means of self-expression and god-devoid pleasures would not be worthy of following. If He is not unmovable in His commitment to His righteousness — to declare His judgments and to develop it in us — there would be no sense in trusting Him as He would not be truly good.

But this is not the case with Him: He is absolutely good, and all His judgments are perfect; therefore, we are not free to exercise disbelief without inheriting undesirable consequences.

Let us then, open ourselves up to love that is what we really need; let us move beyond the fear of never getting what we want and instead discover what true love offers us in God.

Trusting God for Truth

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preaches loose in the world.

So here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ — the Son of God who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person — comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God. This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming. Well, here it is, sooner than we thought!

1 John 4

“And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God.” Wow.

What then do we have to boast in, or trust, after those words? Our only unity with God comes through Christ. This means that everything else — which sometimes feels like everything in it self — that I am trusting must be dropped; it does not correspond with trusting God alone. God is the only thing I need without question, and if I am treasuring anything else as an absolute need I am disagreeing with God’s diagnosis of my heart. I am trying to love idols and God at once.

Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear you earth, the words of my mouth. Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.

I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the rock, his ways are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

They are corrupt and not his children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the LORD, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?

Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you. When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the people according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance.

In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft. The LORD alone led him, no foreign god was with him.

He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag, with curds and milk from the herd and flock and with fatted lambs and goats, with choice rams of Bashan and the finest kernels of wheat. You drank the foaming blood of the grape.

Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food they became heavy and sleek. They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God — gods they had not know, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.

The LORD saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful. They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding. For a fire will be kindled by my wrath, one that burns down to the realm of the dead below. It will devour the earth and its harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains.

“I will heap calamities on them and send my arrows against them. I will send wasting famine against them, consuming pestilence and deadly plague; I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts, the venom of vipers that glide in the dust. In the street the sword will make them childless; in their homes terror will reign. The young men and young women will perish, the infants and those with gray hair. I said I would scatter them and erase their name from human memory, but I dreaded the taunt of the enemy, lest the adversary misunderstand and say, ‘Our hand has triumphed; the LORD has not done all this.'”

They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. If only they were wise and could understand this and discern what their end will be! How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up? For their Rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede. Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison and their clusters with bitterness. Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras.

“Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”

The LORD will vindicate his people and relent concerning his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter!

“See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take judgment on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders.”

Rejoice, you nations with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people.

Moses came to Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you — they are your life. By them you can live long in the land you are crossng the Jordan to possess.

On that same day the LORD told Moses, “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. Their on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. Therefore you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

Deuteronomy 32

What’s the Issue?

Sometimes our lives can seem painted over with issues. Whether they are big or small does not matter so much as the fact that we notice them. They steal our attention, and maybe even our joy. When we look at our day-to-day existence we do not see grace and an overflow of God’s love, we see everything that is wrong with us and everything around us. The view can get depressing when we cannot see much that we have gotten right. 

It is easy to get used to rating how things appear, but contrary to what we might believe, this is not dealing with anything. What we are doing is dancing around issues. This makes it obvious that we think the issues we are looking at are the issue — the biggest thing we ought to be focused on. To face our woes or complications is not to look at them deeply, or to be bogged down in them morning and night. In so many areas we can feel like we are a case, but if we want to get the sentence, then we need to look to the Judge.

The matters our minds are preoccupied with we cannot fix or even make sense of. Momentary issues are not the issue. The gospel is really the main issue. It attacks each of my issues directly. The gospel reminds me of this central truth: nothing is really supposed to consume my attention but Christ and all that He has done for me. That needs to be my central focus on every occasion, in every wave of doubt or difficulty. Nothing else can save me. Jesus came to make me free from my anxiety through His atonement for my sin on the cross, not to make me feel like it is less real.

Our help comes when we let God put us in the middle of our issues. We must accept that we are not a person with problems that can be isolated into separate issues, but a problem that is called a person. Only when we can admit our dependence on Him will we be able to see the truth about ourselves and then how God fits into our lives. We get His perspective as we look upward, not inward (and certainly not outward!). The issues in our lives and relationships are nothing less than issues of our heart revealed in a format we can see. External realities show us internal realities. Nothing is a greater reality than God and we want what we see to match up with Him, otherwise we are deceived. When we realize that Christ, and He alone, is the issue we need to be focused on, our hearts will follow the Truth and He shall set us free from all the issues that not only grasp our attention, but our understanding.

Issues are the outlet we have to seeing where God fits in our lives. How we respond to our issues will either divert us from, or direct us to, the real issue: Is God really who He says He is, and can He be trusted to handle us and our baggage? Often what holds our attention as an issue we have to fix is not truly what is the problem at that moment. Therefore, because of the vanity of our fleshly understanding and the deceitfulness of our hearts, we need to use the gospel to interpret where the lines of our real problem falls.